What motivates me as an anthropologist is a desire to learn more about the history of my surroundings, build relationships that help me understand how I access food and water, and nurture emotional connections to place and landscape.

Dissertation: Living with Crisis: Family, Labor, and Environment in Flint, Michigan (2023)

Between 2019 and 2021, I lived in Flint, Michigan and conducted fieldwork with churches, neighborhood groups, volunteers at bottled water distributions, the United Auto Workers union, local academics and activists, and urban gardeners. Their stories spoke to an ongoing, pervasive sense of crisis. At the same time, residents had compelling reasons to be skeptical of external evaluations of Flint that were almost always one-dimensionally negative. Portrayals of decline and ruin empowered "emergency" takeovers of local government that fueled compensatory demonstrations of resilience from within.

In such a context, I argue that it is important to recognize that effects of the water crisis that may seem wholly disempowering, such as widespread sentiments of distrust and fatigue, are in fact important aspects of living with crisis that many residents believe merit attention, not simply elimination. By identifying the different strategies Flint residents used to balance recognition of harm against unwanted stigmatization, I argue for more attention to mundane acts of survival and endurance rather than seeing only acts of resistance as politically meaningful. 

image: former factory site / flint, michigan