My research interests concern the relationship between epistemology, justice and how individuals and communities resist injustice, with a specific focus on epistemic, health and scientific justice.
My 2015 book, The Limits of Knowledge, 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.
I am also co-editing a book with Heidi Grasswick, Middlebury College, tentatively titled Making the Case: Feminist and Critical Race Theorists Investigating Case Studies. Making the Caseprovides a forum for critical assessments of the effectiveness of case study approaches for feminist and critical race theorists, provides examples of the pluralism of the approaches in this area, and shows the deep connections between case generated work in epistemology and philosophy of science and social justice.
My current research project is entitled "Ending Life: Incarceration, health and institutional epistemic injustice." End of life issues are frequently fraught with a narrow range of choices based on one’s economic, social, health and familial situation. Yet for a select population, ill and/or aging prison inmates, this range of choices is even narrower. This is compounded because people who are incarcerated tend to experience age-related debilitating illness at a younger age than people living outside of prison (Wick and Zanni 2009) and consequently are considered to be elderly at age 50 (Federal Bureau of Prisons 2015). I develop an understanding of institutional epistemic injustice of the carceral system that brings forth the means that it shapes people who are incarcerated such that they become “institutionalized,” i.e., develop a state of embodied epistemic helplessness created by the carceral institution. Thus, when it comes to health and end of life choices, many people who are incarcerated are unable to make decisions or advocate for their own health needs and wishes. Integral to this formation is the multiple ways that racial, gender, sexuality, disability and trans identity injustice intersect with carceral injustice toshape the health and health outcomes of people who are incarcerated. Furthermore, the very people who are charged with caring for the health of people who are incarcerated, prison nurses and doctors, frequently come to embody the institutional harm practices and values of the carceral system. Thus, through penal harm healthcare—the practice of healthcare in prison replicating the harm mentality of the penal system—healthcare providers inflict institutional epistemic injustice and medical injustice upon those whom they are charged with caring. Thus, people who are incarcerated and ill are not only vulnerable because of their own state of being institutionalized, the people who are responsible for caring for them are also institutionalized, epistemically and ethically shutdown in terms of how and why they should provide care for these patients, and thus have the potential to compromise the care of their patients.
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, 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. 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.