Contaminated communities. Local and global perspectives of environmental and social justice

Contaminated communities. Local and global perspectives of environmental and social justice

29.07.2019, Monday
ATREE Auditorium


Contaminated communities are those residing or working close to identified sources of pollution (Edelstein, 2014). In 2018 the report “Bangalore’s toxic legacy intensifies” by the NGO Environment Support Group and myself compiled evidence of sociological, economic and legal mechanisms and contamination pathways that affect the health and well-being of communities living and working near the waste produced by the city of Bangalore. This lecture will present some of the findings and the mechanisms between institutionalized irresponsibility in waste governance and the impoverishment of contaminated communities. While discussing these mechanisms, I aim to put contaminated communities and the source of pollution in local and global perspectives that are closely imbricated into each other to shed light on the urgent need to transform consumption habits and make corporations and regulatory agencies more responsible and accountable. The current Swiss initiative on corporate justice is such an attempt to accountability and calls for business diligence, where environmental justice and human rights are placed above profit-making. I argue that by articulating thematic complexities with scale, opens up fields of action for interdisciplinary engagement between social work and environmental science that has to gain more traction among future professionals.

About the speaker

Swetha Rao Dhananka is currently a Professor at University of Applied Science and Arts Western Switzerland, Social Work School Fribourg. After completing her Masters in Social Work, she worked at the Federal Office for Statistics before taking up a Phd in Political Science at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) on the topic of “urban governance, movements and adequate housing for the urban poor”. All the while, she was teaching a BA course in quantitative methodology. After completing her doctoral education, she took up teaching in human geography and engaged in various academic coordination activities. A post-doctoral grant from the Swiss National Science foundation enabled her to be an academic Fellow at the Development Planning Unit at University College London (UK) and at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements Bangalore (India), engaging in research on knowledge networks and urban planning practices. She extended her fellowship period in India by working as an independent consultant to local NGOs in the domains of social and environmental justice. Her academic interests articulate around community approaches to social work, green social work and global urbanism.