Department of Sociology

Emily Spangenberg

M.A., The University of Texas at Austin

PhD Candidate



Environmental Inequality; Ethnography; GIS & Geospatial Analysis; Health; Human Rights; Latin America


Emily is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.  Her research interests are in the areas of environmental inequality, human rights, public health, and extractive economies.  Her dissertation project, which is based on six years of ethnographic research and interviews in northwestern Argentina, examines the politicization of environmental health risks related to mining activity.  She analyzes how gendered and racialized public health discourses misrecognize the structural roots of environmental health risks.  She also traces how local political networks manage environmental information and influence collective action on contamination.  Emily spent 2014 in Argentina conducting ethnographic fieldwork for her dissertation and in conjunction with an NSF-funded project on the social production of environmental risk perceptions in Latin America.  

Emily's MA thesis, "Hacerles creer que hay plomo: health, environment, and power in Abra Pampa, Argentina" examined the social and political mechanisms behind denial of health risks posed by poliution from lead mining activity.

Emily is a Fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition for Human Rights in Development, where she is working on the drafting and implementation of a human rights due diligence tool for international development funders.  She is also affiliated with UT's Urban Ethnography Lab and has worked extensively with the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice.  She currently serves on the editorial committee for the Rapoport Center's Working Paper Series and has been affiliated with UT Law's Human Rights Clinic since 2009 as an author, editor, and researcher for its advocacy campaign on environmental, health, and collective indigenous rights in Abra Pampa, Argentina. 

Before joining the sociology department, Emily completed an MA in Latin American Studies at UT and a BA in Journalism, Political Science, and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


SOC 304 • Envrnmntl Inequality/Health

44415 • Spring 2016
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM CLA 1.106
Description:    This course examines the social roots and impacts of environmental contamination and natural disasters. It will emphasize how environmental health inequalities are linked to social inequalities (race, class, gender, and nation) and how people respond to environmental risks. Drawing from academic texts, documentary films, and photo essays, we will explore how urban planning and economic development policies create environmental inequalities, both in the United States and globally, and how social movements define and address environmental health hazards.  We will analyze case studies to illustrate key theoretical concepts in the environmental health field, including: hazardous materials siting in the U.S., the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, nuclear testing in the Western U.S., pesticide use in industrial agriculture, the Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine, the Bhopal chemical disaster in India, mining and oil exploitation, and the global toxic waste trade.  

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