Graduation Year

2002

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Anthropology

Major Professor

Wolfe, Alvin

Keywords

Environmental Justice, Applied Anthropology, Ethnography, Risk Perception, Public Involvement, Nuclear Power, Social Impact Assessment, Fermi, Great Lakes, GIS

Abstract

This dissertation reports the activities, methods, and key findings of a doctoral research project in applied anthropology and an environmental anthropology fellowship. The research project was conducted through the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, while the fellowship was sponsored jointly by the Society for Applied Anthropology and the United States Environmental Protection Agency and was conducted through the Great Lakes Fellowship Program of the Great Lakes Commission, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Together, these projects demonstrated the utility of an ethnographic approach called Risk Perception Mapping (RPM) to the public consultation and social research interests of the Commission and its associated network of environmental management agencies and organizations.

Through consultation with these organizations I identified an environmental management problem to which anthropological perspectives and methods would be particularly well-suited: Can the undesirable social phenomenon of environmental discrimination be minimized by assuring greater equality in access to public participation in environmental management? To address this problem, I conducted an RPM demonstration project in a five county area surrounding the Fermi II nuclear power plant in southeastern Michigan. My research focused on cultural, geographical, and social-contextual factors that influence the nature and distribution of perceived risk among populations that are potentially affected by environmental management projects. Key findings pertain to perceptually-specific communities of environmental risk and have implications for what I call "participatory equity" in environmental management.

Potential applications to Great Lakes environmental management center on developing equitable population-specific exchanges of information through which more culturally sensitive indicators of Great Lakes ecosystem integrity may emerge. Anthropological contributions to public participation in environmental management are discussed with particular attention to anthropological perspectives on the multiple publics that comprise locally affected communities of environmental risk.

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