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Cara Jacob Dissertation Proposal Defense

December 10, 2021 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

From the Pipes Up: Multiscalar Perceptions of Urban Water Insecurity in Milwaukee


Water insecurity in urban areas of the global North has been present for quite some time, but it is becoming an ever more pressing concern. Across the United States, infrastructures built in the 19th and 20th centuries to create and deliver safe water are beginning to noticeably decay, creating concerns  over tap water safety and sparking an increased attention to the issue within the water insecurity  literature. This project is broadly focused on understanding how perceptions and experiences of urban  drinking water insecurity change in the context of infrastructural decay. But more particularly, it is  concerned with the ways that those perceptions and experiences are constructed through the use of  authoritative and alternative knowledges. Based on fieldwork conducted in Milwaukee, WI, I examine  these themes from a Feminist Political Ecology (FPE) approach which analyzes the interconnections  between the experience of environmental degradation, intersectionality, and power, across multiple  scales: regional, local, and intrahousehold. I have three main research questions mapped onto these  three scales. 

First, looking regionally, how have media framings (and thus public perceptions) of urban  drinking water insecurity in the Midwest changed since 1974, when the Safe Drinking Water Act was  passed? What can this tell us about trends in the socio-cultural production of water “scarcity” in  hydrologically water-rich regions of the global North? Which solutions are identified as feasible, based  on the chosen frames? Second, at the local level, how are stakeholders (i.e. local government officials  and “affected” community members) conceptualizing Milwaukee’s current tap water challenges? Given  that affected community members are aware that lead is likely coming from multiple sources, why has  water (the least likely source according to the city) remained at the center of the lead contamination  debate? Third, at the intrahousehold level, how do gender differences manifest in the way people cope  with the daily, lived experience of the water crisis in Milwaukee? What does this indicate about the  gendered responsibility of water provisioning in the global North? What can this tell us about how the  experience of water insecurity sustains or alters gender roles? I use interviews, participant observation,  media frame analysis, Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping (FCM), and photovoice to address these questions. This  project will be conducted in collaboration with the Coalition on Lead Emergency (COLE) and its advocacy  branch, COLE Parents Lead, based out of the Hephatha Lutheran Church in Milwaukee.


This defense will be held via Zoom:


Meeting ID: 998 2880 3342
Passcode: 700071


December 10, 2021
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm