Northwestern Events Calendar



When: Monday, October 19, 2015
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM CT

Where: University Hall, Hagstrum Room, UH 201, 1897 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students


Contact: Natasha O Dennison   (847) 491-3525

Group: Science in Human Culture Program

Category: Academic


STEFANIE GRAETER: SHC and Anthropology, Northwestern University

TITLE "An Ethical Objectivity in a State of Corruption: Catholic Science and Heavy-Metal Monitoring in Peru’s Mantaro Valley"

Description: This talk will analyze the situated production of lead exposure data in the Central Andes of Peru. In 2012, a group of Catholic environmental scientists completed six years of longitudinal research in the Mantaro Valley to generate evidence of pollution by the mining industry. The scientific and political practices this Project undertook to generate evidence of environmental contamination formed in relation to local and national opposition against environmentalism, widespread political corruption and violence, and inter-faith Jesuit ethos. Out of this tense political climate and a state of epistemic murk, I show how alliances between transnational and local Christian organizations, scientific practitioners and institutions, and the region’s Archbishop fortified the moral and technical legitimacy of their joint scientific project. While scientific practices and institutions factually legitimized the Church's ethical concerns about heavy-metal contamination, the Church, along with the support of the region's Archbishop, morally sanctified the scientific research. This techno-ethnical congealment made the data collection possible, as well as generating the moral credibility needed to impact regional and national mining policy debates.

Bio: Stefanie Graeter’s work examines the knowledge and politics of environmental contamination, human health, and mineral extraction in Peru. Her dissertation focused on the heavy metal lead, a lucrative product and toxic byproduct of mining, which became emblematic for the fraught moral disagreements over Peruvian neoliberal extractivism. This project drew from eighteen months of ethnographic research with community leaders, affected residents and workers, Catholic environmental scientists, NGOs, and corporate and state representatives. Currently, she is developing her book manuscript, Mineral Incorporations, which discusses the political possibilities and limits of environmentalism and human rights in Peru. The analysis highlights how lead exposure science translated local moral injustices of poverty and illness into evidentiary claims that offered newfound political recognition and material opportunities. The text also negotiates the various impasses which have hindered the scientific and political legitimacy of impacted citizens and their advocates within neoliberal economic governance, models of corporate social responsibility, and entrenched networks of corruption.
Stefanie teaches two courses in the Department of Anthropology and Science in Human Culture. “Ecology, Environment, Nature” (Winter) examines anthropological concepts of human-nonhuman milieus in historical and political context. “Toxicity, Knowledge, Politics” takes a look at global contestations over toxicity, scientific knowledge, and the valuation of human life

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