Accepted paper:

Experts organizing for environmental and social justice: Shadow mobilization in Greater Metro Boston


Scott Frickel (Brown University)
Apollonya Porcelli
Aaron Niznik (Brown University)
Amy Teller (Brown University)

Paper short abstract:

We explore how expert-activist networks are structured across the Greater Metro Boston area’s community development and environmental activist fields. These interactions can alter how social and environmental justice is won, as well as expert knowledge and practice at universities.

Paper long abstract:

The interactions of social movement activists and scientific experts have broad consequences for environmental governance and social justice. Previous research suggests that expert-activist networks or "shadow mobilizations" are important but understudied features of environmental and urban social movements. We are interested in studying these networks because of their theorized potential to enable greater and more effective collaboration between at-risk communities and knowledge professionals. Such interactions can transform how environmental and social justice is won at the grassroots and it can alter expert knowledge and practice "upstream" in science, engineering, legal and health fields.

We present findings from a comparative study of expert penetration of environmental and community development movements in Greater Metro Boston, which holds substantive and methodological advantages over previous studies. By holding geographical setting constant and simultaneously broadening our scope of analysis from individual organizations to social movement fields, we can study how different shadow mobilizations are structured and interact across a similar geographic/urban space. Quantitative data analysis of movement-related experts (n=511) will be combined with material from in-depth interviews (in process) to understand the assemblages that have emerged from academic interaction with social and environmental movement organizations (n=118) in a region dense with universities and expertise.

panel T081
Science and Technology for Social Justice