Claremont, Calif (April 22, 2020)—Brinda Sarathy, professor of environmental analysis and director of the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability at Pitzer College, is awarded a prestigious 2020 American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellowship. The ACLS Fellowship program honors scholarship in the humanities and humanistic social sciences with the potential to make significant contributions to knowledge in their fields.
The ACLS award will provide funding towards full-time research and writing for Sarathy’s project “Laid to Waste: The Stringfellow Acid Pits and Making of Place in Southern California.” The project will examine the history of the first Superfund site in California, the Stringfellow Acid Pits, to better understand how places are produced in the context of invisible flows: of toxics, of groundwater, and less told stories of social mobilization. Drawing on archival material and interviews with community activists and government officials, this research explores how hazardous wastes are understood, rationalized and managed by scientific experts to justify dumping; why policymakers overlooked groundwater contamination in spite of prevailing scientific knowledge; and how to make sense of the often heterogeneous and contradictory nature of local resistance to, and mobilization against, contamination by industrial waste. Significantly, this work considers how institutions of expertise often exclude the experiences of those most exposed to harm and, despite deep and persistent uncertainties, authority figures have been called on to minimize concerns about hazardous substances, thus facilitating industrial, military and economic expansion.
This is the second prestigious award Sarathy received this year. In February, she was awarded a Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Fellowship to conduct her research “Best Practices in Municipal Solid Waste Management: A Case Study from Kodaikanal, India” during the 2020-21 academic year.
This year’s ACLS Fellowships was highly competitive, with only 81 awardees selected from 1,200 applicants through a multi-stage peer-review process.
Formed in 1919, the ACLS is a nonprofit federation of 75 scholarly organizations. In addition to stewarding and representing its member organizations, ACLS employs its $140 million endowment and $35 million annual operating budget to support scholarship in the humanities and social sciences and to advocate for the centrality of the humanities in the modern world.