Environmental Justice Seminar series
All talks will be held from 4-5pm
|Peter Little||Wednesday, Oct 19, 2016||Beaupre 105||On Toxic Fires, Justice, and Electronic Waste Politics in Ghana.|
|Elizabeth Hoover||Wednesday, Nov 2, 2016||Galanti Lounge||Settler Colonialism and Environmental Reproductive Justice in a Mohawk Community.|
|Mei Mei Evans||Wednesday, March 8, 2017||Galanti Lounge||This is What Happens When.|
|Keisha-Khan Perry||Monday, April 3, 2017||Galanti Lounge||Black Women’s Life and Death Struggle in the Renewed City.|
|Vanessa Agard-Jones||Monday, April 17, 2017||Memorial Union Atrium 2||After the End of the World: Black Lives, Matter and the Anthropocene.|
Peter earned his PhD in Applied Anthropology from Oregon State University. He is an anthropologist who finds inspiration from a variety of interdisciplinary fields, including environmental studies, disaster studies, science and technology studies, and environmental justice studies. His interest and involvement in environmental justice advocacy began with anti-coal and anti-ski industry activism among Navajo and Hopi tribes in the U.S. Southwest, and more recently his research and advocacy has turned to emerging eco-science programs in U.S. prisons and global electronic waste politics. Peter is author of Toxic Town: IBM, Pollution, and Industrial Risks (2014, New York University Press) and his second book project is exploring the culture, politics, and ecology of electronic waste recycling in Ghana. He is a father of two righteous kids and continues to find the time to rock climb, what considers his first passion.
For those studying the global environmental politics of high-tech rubbish, Agbogbloshie is a familiar name. A scrap site in Accra, Ghana, Agbogbloshie has attracted numerous international environmental NGOs, engineers, environmental health scientists, slum tourists, journalists, photographers, and social scientists. In 2014, Agbogbloshie became the site of a “model” e-waste recycling center built to make e-waste recycling work safer and more environmentally friendly. With support from a variety of government and nongovernment agencies, the new recycling facility has a clear risk reduction goal, but its’ efficacy and sustainability is unclear. In short, the new facility aims to reduce the health risks of electronic cable burning —one primary source of air pollution in Agbogbloshie—by using automated machines to strip coated cables and wires of various sizes containing copper and other valuable, yet toxic, materials. This lecture draws on ethnographic research to illustrate how Agbogbloshie’s e-waste recyclers understand their environment, labor, health, and futures in a toxic postcolonial context where multiple forms of environmental injustice endure.
Elizabeth Hoover is Manning Assistant Professor of American Studies at Brown University where she teaches courses on environmental health and justice in Native communities, indigenous food movements, Native American museum curation, and community engaged research. Elizabeth received her MA and PhD in Anthropology at Brown University, with a focus on environmental and medical Anthropology as it applies to Native American communities responding to environmental contamination. She just completed a book manuscript “’The River is In Us;’ Fighting Toxics in a Mohawk Community,” which is an ethnographic exploration of Akwesasne Mohawks’ response to Superfund contamination and environmental health research. Her second book project “From ‘Garden Warriors’ to ‘Good Seeds;’ Indigenizing the Local Food Movement” explores Native American farming and gardening projects around the country: the successes and challenges faced by these organizations, the ways in which participants define and envision concepts like food sovereignty, and importance of heritage seeds. Elizabeth has published articles about environmental reproductive justice in Native American communities, the cultural impact of fish advisories on Native communities, tribal citizen science, and health social movements.
“Settler Colonialism and Environmental Reproductive Justice in a Mohawk Community”
This presentation explores issues of indigeneity, permanence and the future of seven generations in a Mohawk community contending with the legacy of industrial contamination and settler colonialism. Akwesasne is downwind and downstream from one federal and two NY State Superfund sites, industries that flocked to the shores of the St Lawrence after it was made a Seaway in the 1950’s. Scrubbers added to the smoke stacks of an aluminum foundry in the 1980’s are said to have alleviated fluoride contamination, and a multi-stage cleanup of the PCB contaminated General Motors site is currently winding down. But the community is now left with a capped riverbed, a 12-acre PCB-filled landfill adjacent to their reservation, and questions about the safety of local food and the health of future generations. Like foreign governments and non-Native settlers, PCBs have settled into the soil, sediment, fish and by extension the bodies of Mohawk people, colonizing those bodies and damaging cells. In this way, industrial contamination in Akwesasne is seen an extension of the settler colonial process: extending non-Native influence over indigenous land and bodies through federal agencies and corporate negotiations. At the same time contending with this issues has become a matter of environmental reproductive justice—fighting to mediate the impact of contaminants on Mohawks’ ability to not only physically reproduce healthy infants, but also to reproduce culturally competent tribal citizens. This presentation concludes with a discussion of research methodologies utilized in environmental justice research, and a description of the tribe’s decades’ long struggle to gain control over the research process to determine contaminant levels; the clean-up process; and the type of environment that would be inherited by the next seven generations of Mohawks.
Mei Mei Evans, PhD, is the author of Oil and Water, a novel based on events surrounding the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, which was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether prize. A co-editor of and contributor to The Environmental Justice Reader, she is also the author of numerous works of creative and scholarly writing. Mei Mei teaches English at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage, Alaska, and is the mother of a teenaged daughter.
I will examine the climate crisis through the lens of popular movies. How do the stories we tell shape our perceptions of reality and both impede and promote our ability to respond meaningfully to calls for action?
Keisha-Khan Y. Perry (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, Anthropology, 2005) is Associate Professor of Africana Studies and specializes in the critical study of race, gender, and politics in the Americas with a particular focus on black women’s activism, urban geography and questions of citizenship, feminist theories, intellectual history and disciplinary formations, and the interrelationship between scholarship, pedagogy, and political engagement. She has conducted extensive research in Mexico, Jamaica, Belize, Brazil, Argentina, and the United States.
Black dispossession (loss of land/territorial rights, housing evictions, gentrification) represents a form of anti-black violence devastating black communities throughout the Americas. Yet our conversations of anti-black violence tend to emphasize the disproportionate impact of violent policing on Black men. Drawing from examples in Brazil, Jamaica, and the United States, I show how latent and subtle forms of aggression buttress the unequal social order, and how Black women are key political protagonists in the fight against this aggression. The backbone of grassroots mobilization, Black women recognize that there is a direct relationship between the structural racism that Black people experience and the physical violence of the state. The police work in tandem with the destruction of Black urban environments, and racial terror and mass incarceration work in tandem with mass evictions, gentrification. Consequently, Black women are the momentum behind the movement against anti-Black racism transnationally, particularly the fight against displacement and for land and housing rights. I argue that black urban spaces are racialized, gendered terrains of domination in which black and black women’s politics are deeply connected to resistance against geographic domination as practiced in forced removal and dispossession.
Vanessa Agard-Jones is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, where she serves on the Executive Council of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She is currently writing a book called Body Burdens: Toxic Endurance and Decolonial Desire in the French Atlantic for Duke University Press. Outside of academe, Prof. Agard-Jones is the former coordinator of Oakland’s Prison Activist Resource Center and the former Board Chair of New York City’s Audre Lorde Project. She also taught in San Quentin State Prison’s Postsecondary Education Program, and for three years in Atlanta Public Schools.
Talk: After the End of the World: Black Lives, Matter, and the Anthropocene
What can a Black feminist/Black queer analytic offer to our experiences, articulations, and speculations about the conditions of life–and of death– in the Anthropocene? Emerging narratives about the Anthropocene mobilize ideas about the human, the person, and the body that often universalize rather than particularize, occluding the fact that, for example, in the Americas, access to these categorizations has long been shot through with histories of normative violence. In this talk I consider the ways that visible and less-than-visible violences continue to be visited upon Black bodies in this hemisphere. I ask: how might Black experience with perishment offer a rubric for thinking futurity, including reproductive futurity, in a moment of environmental collapse? Plumbing toxicities that are at once material and experiential, historical and contemporary, I propose that contemporary thinking about life and liveliness in this epoch must be fundamentally refigured by bodies that have always-already been enmeshed with commodity chains– by the endurance of Black life in an ever-toxic world.