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Marginalizing of Local Knowledge Production: Citizen Science under Emergency Water Management in Flint, Michigan

Sun, August 21, 10:30am to 12:10pm, TBA

Abstract

For the past two years residents of Flint, Michigan have been living in a public health crisis that only recently has been acknowledged by state and local leaders. The revelation of this crisis was spurred through the efforts of a citizen science research study on household water quality which showed widespread lead contamination at the residential point of use. Residents and activists had been trying to get the city to take notice of their concern for more than a year prior but the citizen science study provided concrete data for officials to contend with. Due to the highly political context, the citizen data spurred further research but also has been widely discounted with further demands for official and third party testing. This paper analyzes the role that the citizen collection of water samples played in the ongoing development of knowledge about the crisis and in what ways residents have been incorporated into planning towards the remediation of the crisis. While citizen science points to a more democratic process of knowledge production, within the exceptional context of emergency management, the liberatory opportunity of citizen science is complicated.

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