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

The contamination of drinking water with lead in Flint, Michigan, is one of the most serious environmental health crises to have occurred in the United States. When the state of Michigan withdrew all bottled water and filter distributions in April 2018, they cited water testing results in compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule. Yet currently, long lines of cars go on for blocks to collect donated bottled water from volunteer-organized distributions, demonstrating that for many in Flint, the water crisis is not over. This project explores how dominant biomedical understandings of lead poisoning help enable the state to recast social problems of environmental and economic inequality into a technoscientific problem of diagnosis and abatement. How might public health paradigms focused on addressing inequality in the domain of toxic exposure also take into account social inequalities precipitated by deindustrialization, neoliberalism, and racial discrimination? Flint residents, when they construct claims about citizenship and create artistic representations to turn experiences of toxicity into claims about justice, counter the separation of the toxic and the social. Using ethnographic methods, this project examines how residents, government officials, scientists, and clinicians in Flint collectively craft and contest evidence of environmental injustice.