Areas of Inquiry

The Working Group considers a very broad set of topics at the intersection of science and justice, but over time have focused on a cluster of areas of inquiry that recur in our research and programming.
The Working Group has developed a series of themes that guide our research and programming.

Socioecological Justices

As the relational nature of ecological destruction becomes more apparent, how might we understand and support not-only human actualizations of justice and environmental repair?  Inspired by the ongoing struggles of diverse communities and social movements, this year the Science and Justice Research Center focuses on the complementary relationship between ‘environmental’ and ‘ecological’ justices.  We think with what Uruguayan ecologist, Eduardo Gudynas, calls an environmental justice that remains centered on the redistribution of “resources” and “natural spaces” between humans, and more expansive practices of ecological justice that encompass world-sustaining relations and the intradependence between diverse forms of life.

In the fall quarter, we welcome Fulbright scholar, Dr. Diana Bocarejo, who joins us from the Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá, Colombia to share her research on water justice in the global South.  Bocarejo’s events will not only teach us about collaborative research methods with local communities in Colombia, but also the generative potential of interdisciplinary exchanges between social scientists, rural residents, engineers, biologists, and other practitioners in a postconflict and transitional justice scenario. During the year, we also look forward to a visit by Dr. Karen Bakker who is professor, Canada Research Chair, and Founding Director of the Program on Water Governance at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability.  Bakker will share her work with the “Water Bush Camp – Learning from the Land” where indigenous community members, water scientists, lawyers, activists, and artists gathered at a remote mountain lake in north-eastern British Columbia in 2015: the traditional shared territory of Halfway River, Saulteau, and West Moberly First Nations. The Water Bush Camp experiment honored the experiences and traditional ecosystems management practices of the Dunne-Za, and continuing attempts to “decolonize” water.

Decolonial Practices at the Interface with Modern Sciences

What kinds of decolonizing practices may be emerging at the interfaces with the modern sciences? How might scientific practices and practitioners be transformed in the process, including the ways we understand the concept of “knowledge” itself? Can decolonial scholarship and the social studies of science and technology (STS) engage in joint analysis and conversation? The Science and Justice Research Center will begin to ask questions that build off of postcolonial and feminist science studies literature, as well as the research collaborations and alliances of our faculty affiliates with community activists and popular processes in settler colonial, decolonial, and postcolonial struggles and contexts.

We will organize reading groups and campus events in conjunction with the Race, Violence, Inequality, and the Anthropocene IHR Research Cluster. These ongoing events and conversations will build towards a spring 2017 symposium that we are tentatively titling Sciences and Justices. Invited workshop participants, artists, and organic intellectuals will share their proposals and experiences engaging with the potentials and limits of decolonial practices at the interfaces with STS and the modern scientific disciplines. Graduate training program participants will be instrumental in envisioning and organizing the symposium.

Data Justice: Justice, Knowledge, and Care in an Age of Big Data and Precision Medicine

Over the last decade, digitized data has moved to the heart of decision-making practices—whether in science, law, policing, or medicine. With a focus on biodata, the Science & Justice Research Center seeks to map out and to begin to forge responses to the profound questions of science and justice that stand before us as we enter these brave new worlds of biomedical big data. What happens to trust in medicine and patient outcomes when data portals, not doctors, deliver health information, and when health data is used to understand your risk for disease today, but used in lawsuits or a national security investigations tomorrow? What happens to our ability to think about disease, care for patients, and address public health challenges when access to data expands exponentially for some (and not others)? What do we need to understand and what should we do if we want better knowledge, better care and more just, equitable worlds to be the guiding goals of open, big data approaches to health?

The SJRC aims to broaden the public discussion about big data from ethical and legal questions about privacy and informed consent to these more fundamental questions about the right and just constitution of care, trust, and knowledge. It seeks to do so in a moment when social inequalities are the widest in U.S. history and the premium on trust relationships is at its highest. As a first step, in May 2016, SJRC and collaborators from across the nation gathered together at UCSC to ask: What would it take to re-center healthy equity and disability justice in big data approaches to health and medicine? This year we will be developing these conversations, and launching our Third Street Project which aims to work with community partners to address these issues in the context of one city street in San Francisco.