My research interests concern the relationship between epistemology, justice and how individuals and communities resist injustice, with a specific focus on epistemic, carceral, health and scientific injustice.
The Limits of Knowledge,, my 2015 book, provides an understanding of what pragmatist feminist theories look like in practice through using case studies to demonstrate some of the particular ways that dominant scientific and medical practices fail to meet the health needs of marginalized groups and communities. Examples include a community action group fighting environmental injustice in Bayview Hunters Point, California, one of the most toxic communities in the US; gender, race, age, and class biases in the study and diagnosis of endometriosis; a critique of Evidence-Based Medicine; the current effects of Agent Orange on Vietnamese women and children; and pediatric treatment of Amish and Mennonite children.
My interest and commitment to intersectional, transdisciplinary, critical, and case-generated research continues with my current research projects. Among these projects are two co-edited volumes; two co-written articles, one of which is an article co-written with a former undergraduate student of mine who is now completing her Ph.D.; an invited and a new research project entitled “Epistemic Deadspace: Prisoners, Politics and Place.” This project started off from an article entitled “Ending Life: Incarceration, Health and Epistemic Injustice” recently published in the inaugural issue of the Public Philosophy Journal. It builds on arguments in epistemic injustice to develop an embodied account of institutional epistemic injustice to argue that prisons use healthharm in their medical care of people who are incarcerated to further the penal harm role of the institution. I argue that this gets taken on bodily by prisoners via abusive and negligent healthcare and that the harm mentality becomes bodied by prison healthcare workers who come to treat their patients as prisoners instead of patients.
The development for “epistemic deadspace” builds from this line of thinking, as I started reflecting more on the construction of institutions and their role in enabling or precluding epistemic agency. I was working through ideas for the volume I am editing on Lorraine Code’s work and preparing a talk for a plenary session that I was organizing on her work. Code develops the concept ecological thinking and develops a notion of habitat as a place to know and to know from. What started to worry me as I reflected upon my years of teaching in prisons and detention centers is how some habitats are intentionally constructed to be the opposite of those that enable ecological thinking. These are spaces I am calling “epistemic deadspace.” Epistemic deadspaces are those intentionally co-constructingphysically and epistemically to be habitats designed to shutdown knowing and epistemic agency. Like an oubliette they obscure and hold people who are politically and socially troubling to us —people incarcerated for crimes, immigrants, free people of color, people who have mental health illnesses—away from the outside view and in such as way that they create the conditions to shutdown knowing. These spaces house and enable epistemic ignorance, epistemic injustice and epistemic violence. Like much of my research, this project will be driven by extended case examples. Among these are incarceration and epistemic and health injustice, with a focus on the forced sterilization of women who are incarcerated and the shackling of women in labor; settler colonialism and the policing of space; immigrant detention and separation of families; and spaces that we think of as free from “deadspacing,” but in fact might be ready sources of it, such as predominantly white colleges and universities and religious institutions.
In 2016 my Inside-Out Prison Exchange writing group and I published a co-written paper. The LoCI-Wittenberg University Writing Group consists of men incarcerated at London Correctional Facility and current and former Wittenberg University students. Our paper, “An Epistemology of Incarceration: Constructing Knowing on the Inside” (philoSOPHIA 6.1 9-26.) is written from the perspective and insights of people who are currently incarcerated and from people who have been in a working, academic relationship with them for the past two years. The paper explores the limitations and achievements of the epistemic structure of the lives of incarcerated people and puts forth the ways that an epistemology of incarceration is formed as a resistant epistemology such that people make knowledge and meaning for themselves even under conditions of incarceration.
Since 2011 I have been teaching as part of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. Through this program I take 15 Wittenberg University students to have class at London Correctional Institution with 15 men who are incarcerated. I have taught The Art of Living Ethically, The Many Faces of Justice, Global Health Justice, Global Feminism, Gender and Global Justice, Philosophy Incarcerated, and Knowing Bodies in this format. All students do the same work in these classes and all student received Wittenberg University credit for these courses. The inside students (those students who are incarcerated) are able to apply this credit toward their two or four year degrees. Here is a link to a Wittenberg Magazine article about an earlier version of The Art of Living Ethically that was taught at The Clark County Juvenile Detention Center.
I also teach a course called Science in Social Context. In 2014 and 2015 we completed a project-based learning experience in which we studied the Tremont City Barrel Fill, an U.S. EPA Superfund Site. We met with the U.S. EPA, a community action group, People for Safe Water and held a public display of our research to provide information to our community. Over 200 community members attended.
In 2016 I taught in Wittenberg, Germany, directing our Wittenberg in Wittenberg Program, one of Wittenberg University's flagship international study programs through which Wittenberg University students spend a semester studying in Wittenberg, Germany, the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation
Much of my community engagement is done through my teaching in which I integrate engagement between students and the broader community. Much of this can be seen in my Inside-Out teaching and my Science and Social Context course. This year I am partnering with Safe Harbor House, which is a residential safe house and reentry program for women who were formerly incarcerated. Instead of going to a prison, as I do for my Inside-Out courses, the students from Safe Harbor House come to my college to have together with Wittenberg students for my Gender and Global Justice course. I don't view these as community service, but instead as means for all of us to be challenged to think critically, carefully and compassionately immersed within our local and global communities.
In 2011 a group of my Inside-Out students, myself, and community members started a restorative justice project, called The Restorative Justice Initiative. For this program we trained 43 community members in restorative justice practices. This training and the ongoing restorative justice work is a collaboration of the Clark County Juvenile Court,_ Project Jericho, and Wittenberg University's Department of Philosophy and the Hagen Center for Civic and Urban Engagement. The training was led by the International Institute for Restorative Justice. Community members that were trained work in the juvenile courts, schools, at Wittenberg University, in social services, and in local schools.