The Urban Toxicity Project


Urban environmental toxicity is a difficult problem to confront. It often occurs over long periods of time, making it challenging to connect the contaminating source to the resulting impacts on human and environmental health and wellbeing. It is an issue that disproportionately affects the most vulnerable members of society: women, children, minorities, and low-income communities. Those who experience urban environmental toxicity are often saddled with the burden of "proving" they have been affected by contamination, before assitance is provided.

Project History and Goals

Beyond providing a visualization of where urban environmental toxicity is happening, this project is also about promoting the use of visual, community-based, participatory research to assist communities in their efforts to advocate for change. This project has its beginnings in my dissertation research, which was focused on the childhood lead epidemic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as well as work done with my advisor as part of my Master's research, in Flint, Michigan following the long-term effects of the Flint Water Crisis. Both of these projects used a photovoice method, which is a type of participatory research that uses photos and narratives produced by community members to document the impact of a particular issue on their daily lives. It is my hope that this project will become an archive of photovoice and other visual, participatory research projects that will connect people who have experienced infrastructural violence with others who understand what they are going through and with researchers interested in helping their communities.

And for any researchers interested in learning more about photovoice as a tool for this kind of work, or who are interested in having their research project added to this map, please contact me!

Cara Jacob