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Congratulations to Dr. Ellen Kohl!

February 13, 2015

I am a bit tardy on posting this, but wanted to send out a warm congratulations to Dr. Ellen Kohl who recently successfully defended and submitted her Ph.D. dissertation entitled “Permanence of the Struggle: Race, Gender, And Environmental Justice In Gainesville, Georgia”

Ellen’s research has been some of the most exciting I’ve advised to date.

Thanks to her research committee members Drs. Steve Holloway, Amy Ross, Patricia Richard and Laura Pulido.

Abstract:

In this dissertation, I examine the socio-spatial processes which contribute to and maintain places of persistent environmental injustices. I argue that there are compounding political, social, economic, and geographic processes that work in conjunction with the fatal coupling of difference and power to create almost insurmountable barriers to remedy social and environmental injustices. They would be insurmountable except for the sheer tenacity of activists and residents who work tirelessly to make positive change in their communities. Through an integrated lens of Black feminist thought and theories on the racial state I draw on my empirical research to introduce factors that independently and in their interactions with one another, lay the groundwork for the persistence of places of environmental injustice. I argue that while nuanced details differ from place to place, the challenges faced by environmental justice communities fall into six interrelated and compounding categories: 1) urban planning, (2) regulatory processes, (3) scale of analysis, (4) the role of science, (5) political economy, and (6) cultural capital. I consider these processes in a historic-geographical context because without explicitly considering these histories and their relationship to difference and power, regulators and activists intentionally or unintentionally perpetuate the uneven development of discriminatory processes. To do this, I rely on extensive participant observation, semi-structured interviews and archival research, with the Newtown Florist Club, a social and environmental justice organization in Gainesville, Georgia, elected and career representatives of the City of Gainesville, and representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Southeastern Division. I examine how through every day experiences and narratives, activists and governmental officials contest or perpetuate persistent injustices. I also examine how activist use storytelling as a way to reassert themselves on the physical and political landscape they feel ignores their lived experiences. In this way, they use the stories of their lived experiences to not only draw attention to individual environmental hazards, but also to the structural processes which allow these injustices to exist, and persist, in the first place.

KEY WORDS: Environmental Justice, Race and Racialization, Black Feminist Thought, Environmental Policy, Urban Policy

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