Jennifer Carrera


Towards Impactful Sociological Practice through Community Engaged Research in Flint, MI


While as sociologists we are adept at articulating the root causes of social injustices, we falter at making impactful contributions through our public sociological endeavors. Some within our profession argue that it is not the job of the sociologist to impact society, however the tradition of emancipatory sociology established by founding scholar W.E.B. Du Bois suggests otherwise. Du Bois’ approach to sociology, and science more generally, was to advance a scholarship that was motivated by a desire to transform social injustices impacting communities of color.  In this vein, it is the imperative of sociologists to work towards challenging the oppressions that we study as opposed to merely exploiting them for our own scholarly gains. This presentation shares the progress of a community driven research project in Flint, Michigan that works to develop pathways to support community science, led and carried out by community members. The efforts of this project have followed a Freirian model, as advanced by Wallerstein et al., of Listening-Dialogue-Action to learn the needs, priorities, and expertise of Flint residents in responding to a public health and environmental crisis; engage with residents in co-learning activities to understand how to approach solutions; and working with residents to co-develop a mobile application that will help residents to share embodied observations of water quality and health and water test results across the community for data transparency, organizing, and community advocacy to protect public health. Through this work we offer recommendations for how sociologists may contribute to transformative change in addressing environmental injustices.

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