The Precarity of Solidarities via Technologies of Control: The Case of Chrome Plating in California

Nov. 2023


The labor and environmental social movements have routinely been drawn into governance relationships under the dominant regulatory regime of command and control in the United States since the 1960s (Kazis & Grossman 1983; Obach 1999). From scrubbers in smokestacks to computer models, these technologies have mediated regulatory compliance, decision-making, participation, representation, enforcement, and resistance to conditions of production. However, when state agencies take up the gambit of environmental justice (EJ), how, why, and to what effect do these technologies mediate the relationships between the two social movements? What happens when workers face the dissolution of their industries as a result? Through the case of the proposed ban of Hexavalent Chromium in California, this paper yokes together technology-driven mediations between labor and governance agencies and the interests of workers and environmental justice activists. Through participant observation, I find that state-driven technologies splinter solidaristic relationships between workers and the environmental justice movement. When these solidarities are weakened, an accelerated impetus for alternative control technologies promises to buttress worker precarity, obscuring empirically emergent and embodied best practices to live in toxic worlds while minimizing risks to workers and EJ communities. These findings problematize the longstanding jobs vs. environment stalemate, which has presented working-class jobs and environmental health as antagonistic goals. Contributing to how STS might inform governance structures that aim at a just transition, this paper suggests ways to think about the conditions of the precarity of the relationship between workers, environmental justice activists, and regulatory technologies.

Data Surrogates as Hosts: Politics of Environmental Governance

Published in Catalyst: feminism, theory, technoscience
April  ‘23


Data-driven environmental governance within the standard regulatory regime routinely relies on unmeasurable, missing, or abjected data. Technocrats typically use data surrogates to alleviate this pervasive problem. By combining feminist technoscience and critical environmental justice approaches, this article argues that data surrogates are far more than fungible substitutes and rely on more than scientific rationality and transcendent objectivity. Through a case of intersecting environmental governance and justice work in the Portside Community in San Diego, this article exposits a broader conceptualization of data surrogates by developing a partial typology of operations they perform: calibrating, weighting, and validating. The politics and labors of these operations are crucial to analyze how data acquire material and discursive power in environmental governance. I propose an analytical shift from examining the work of data surrogates in terms of substituting to one of hosting. This shift reveals and better explains how data surrogates negotiate relationships between body, place, and property across state, market, and civil society actors. Moreover, it demonstrates how data surrogates interrupt the dominant regulatory regime by resisting fungibility through acts of social reproduction. Far from being subordinate to technocratic tools, the work of social reproduction makes governing with scientific and technical instruments both possible and contestable.






Summer 2022

Narrative and analytical report of the community engagement component of California’s Climate Scoping Plan of 2022 per Assembly Bill AB-32.  
Prepared by:
Akshita Sivakumar, Ph.D. candidate (UC-San Diego)
Sarina Vega, AB32 Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (EJAC) Member
Environmental/Justice Solutions [Colin Miller (EJAC proxy member), Marybelle Nzegwu Tobias, Eva Farah, Sylvia Escarcega]


Fall 2021

Course Description: 
In this course we will explore various theories that help us makes sense of and justify specific conditions within architecture, its relations, and discourse as a cultural activity since the “end” of Modernism. If we take as a premise that architecture matters because it spatially and materially negotiates the desires and values of a milieu, it is imperative for us as architecture students to then learn to analyze how to make sense of these negotiations within a feedback loop of theory and practice. To this effect, we will learn how the built environment and its representations help us gather meaning from and makes sense of the world, its events, and relationships, while facilitating meaningful experiences. We will draw on theories of space and representation from various fields that architecture has long been in contact with, including geography, urban studies, sociology, and media studies. Space here is conceived of in multiple ways from abstract to concrete, planned to produced, imagined to materialized, and relational to discrete.

100+ Laskey competition winning entry
with Stephen Kim