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Environmental Justice

Racial injustice and climate change are two urgent and interrelated challenges facing humanity today. Scholars, policymakers, and the public alike tend to treat social and environmental issues separately, hampering our ability to address their mutually reinforcing effects. Repairing these social and environmental fractures requires collaborative solutions informed by historical, political, environmental, and local knowledge.  Through this work, environmental justice activists and scholars seek to make the public more aware of the disproportionate impact of pollution and climate change on communities of color.

The Repair Lab – the newest rotating research laboratory in the Arts & Sciences’ Democracy Initiative – brings together expertise and insight from across the humanities, social sciences and sciences to produce research that is truly interdisciplinary and grounded in lived experiences of racial injustice, oppression, and struggle.  Through their connection with this forum, IDF Fellows in Environmental Justice will derive unique academic and professional training from scholars who are working on shared concerns, but approach them using vastly different conceptual and methodological tools.

Areas of Study

Our faculty research cluster on environmental justice centers on four questions that can be approached from a variety of disciplines

  • What are the historical relationships among race, politics, and the environment and what are their legacies today?
  • How does contemporary discrimination manifest in the environment and how can we advance environmental monitoring to better inform this research?
  • How do affected populations experience environmental injustice and how do we work together to produce more useful scholarship?
  • How and where can citizens most effectively intervene in environmental policymaking?

In helping to answer these questions, IDF Fellows in Environmental Justice will gain exposure to a broad spectrum of experts both within and outside of academia, including scholars from other universities, community leaders, and policymakers.  Fellows will also participate in research and the development of programming that foregrounds the experience and material reality of environmental oppression.

Mentoring Plan and Resources

Fellows will work closely with the faculty membership of the research cluster and have coordinated access to extensive programing and support through the Repair Lab.

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Nature of Justice Workshop Series

Fellows will attend and engage with speakers and other participants in a monthly workshop series titled The Nature of Justice.  This colloquium provides extensive community and networking, as well as opportunities for students to present research as they progress through their doctoral programs.

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Teaching and Research Assistantships

To complement and enhance standard teaching assistantships, fellows will have the opportunity to participate in the conceptualization, planning and delivery of courses relating to environmental justice that are developed by faculty affiliated with the Repair Lab.

Fellows will also be prioritized for appointments as research assistants for Repair Lab projects, such as the Environmental Justice Policy Clinic or the Environmental Justice Oral History Project.

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Graduate Certificates

Faculty mentors will work with Fellows to incorporate a graduate certificate in Environmental Humanities, Africana Studies, Digital Humanities or American Studies into their doctoral curriculum in order to broaden their academic exposure and professional versatility.

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Academic Conferences and Public Forums

With mentorship from the cluster faculty, Fellows will design, organize, and host an interdisciplinary graduate student academic conference.  They will also be provided with presentation skills development to engage with diverse audiences, including forums at which to engage with the public and policy agencies as well as inancial support to attend at least one national academic conference at which they will feature their research in a scholarly setting.

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Multimedia Training and Content Creation

Fellows will receive training in podcast production from the Repair Lab’s multimedia producer and create original content based on their own research.  Fellows will also learn to conduct, archive, and analyze oral histories as part of the Repair Lab Environmental Justice Oral History Project, which can serve as a possible source for their dissertation research.  Fellows will have opportunities to develop technical skills such as data handling, processing, and analysis, coding in multiple languages, mapping and digital humanities, and database development.

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Policy Development

Fellows will have the opportunity to apply their research skills and classroom training as they work with community leaders, policymakers and local residents to develop interventions for local environmental justice issues as part of the Environmental Justice Policy Clinic.  Here, IDF graduate students will synthesize available resources and policies, interpret and/or create relevant environmental datasets, and design new targeted policies.  Fellows with further interest in this area will receive mentoring from the faculty to design a policy-related internship through UVA’s PhD+ program.