Elena Sobrino

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Massachusetts Inst. of Technology

Grant number

Gr. 9846

Approve Date

April 30, 2019

Project Title

Sobrino, Elena (Massachusetts Inst. of Technology) "Corroding Evidence: Toxicity and Conflict in Flint, Michigan," supervised by Dr. Christine Walley

ELENA SOBRINO, then a graduate student at Massachusetts Inst. of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was awarded funding in April 2019 to aid research on ‘Corroding Evidence: Toxicity and Conflict in Flint, Michigan,’ supervised by Dr. Christine Walley. This project explores environmental and economic transitions in the deindustrialized Great Lakes region of North America, with a focus on Flint, Michigan, and the ongoing water crisis there. Flint is surrounded by approximately twenty percent of the world’s freshwater supply in the five Great Lakes. But the Flint water crisis reveals a counterintuitive reality: geographic proximity to abundant natural resources does not necessarily guarantee water potability, access, or security. This project examines the cultural, political, and scientific projects that make the quotidian toxicities of racial capitalism more visible, and consequently more open to interventions that advance justice and sustainability. Using ethnographic methods of participant-observation and interviews, this dissertation documents how organized labor, environmental justice activism, and green chemistry offer different approaches to ameliorate past, present, and future toxic harm. What do each of these spheres of action have in common, what differentiates their strategies, and how do they untangle or re-connect environmental and economic struggles? This project argues that the alleviation of toxic risk is tied not only to technological forms of remediation, but to the elimination of policies and practices that uphold structures of inequality and racism.