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Troubling exposure: (counter)-knowledge practices and the democratization of environmental epistemologies 
Cynthia Browne (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)
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Cynthia Browne (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)
Cameron Brinitzer (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)
Combined Format Open Panel

Short Abstract:

This panel explores not only how certain devices and regimes of scientific legibility have rendered environmental exposure a troubling and widespread feature of contemporary life but also how other kinds of experts collaborate to materialize exposure through practices of counter-knowledge formation.

Long Abstract:

Formaldehyde, PCBs, lead, but also noise, radiation, and viruses, are all entities that have been understood through science as actants capable of exposing unsheltered forms of life to harm. The detection of such entities, the identification of their pathways of damage, and the establishment of standards and protocols to help regulate their presence and safeguard the health of populations has, over the past century, become widespread. However, while a certain scientific logic of (environmental) exposure has now become commonplace, the methods and modes of knowing exposure has become increasingly democratized: grassroots activists and concerned citizens have developed their own devices for detecting and reporting exposure, from the networked efforts of Safecast and "radiation moms" (Kimura 2016) in the wake of Fukushima, to new indexical forms of detecting hydrogen sulphide on homesteads affected by fossil fuel extraction (Wylie et al 2017), to the use of "bucket monitoring" within and for communities neighboring petrochemical industries (Ottinger 2010). As such, knowledge made of and about exposure has become a contested agora of voices filled not only with scientists, but also other experts and community groups materializing exposure to counter its unequal distributions along lines of class, race, gender, and colonialism. Often, such actions operate both “with” and “against” scientific epistemologies; they find expression not only within scholarly journals and policy documents, but also through digitally-enabled platforms and databases, as well as through new kinds of image-making and forms of collaborative knowledge production.

Acknowledging diverse forms of expertise, this Combined Open Panel invites contributions that address how exposure is not only troubling but has also become troubled by this democratization of epistemologies surrounding environmental exposure. Submissions might take the appearance of traditional paper presentations but also dialogues and/or workshops that explore how this knowledge becomes public and perceived through different formats and modalities.

Accepted contributions: