Britt Dahlberg

Britt Dahlberg is a PhD Candidate in Medical/Cultural Anthropology.

Her dissertation focuses on the ways different community residents, groups, government agencies, and researchers make sense of "risk" in the same town, through ethnography of community-government-scientist collaborations during an environmental risk assessment study on an asbestos-waste site. Her work explores the ways place becomes a research object under different expert lenses (environmental, public health, clinical), how risks and risky places are transformed through particular knowledge practices, and the impact of on-site research on place-making and the terms of local belonging and future planning.

Her dissertation research is funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant from the Cultural Anthropology and Science, Technology and Society Programs, Wenner Gren Doctoral Research Grant and Osmundsen Supplement, American Philosophical Society (APS) Lewis & Clark Field Grant, University of Pennsylvania Teece Fellowship for Doctoral Research (DRF), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) NNEMS Fellowship.


Photo Caption: This dissertation project attends to the ways government scientists and area residents each monitor and collect information about the risks they see in the area. Above, an EPA air monitor collects data on asbestos particles in the air, and a resident conducts walking “tours" of the asbestos history, narrating current scenes as risky by pointing to historical photos of the asbestos waste now hidden under the soil.

Photo caption: On left, a picture from inside an old asbestos manufacturing plant, and on right, one of the dump sites used for piling asbestos waste from manufacturing. Some residents still conceptually locate the greatest risk of asbestos within the old factory walls, designating asbestos as an occupational, not environmental, problem, and as a problem of the past. Others have been reconceptualizing the asbestos as a potential environmental and current risk, and worry it might affect residents more broadly. This project identifies which data different groups are using to answer questions about whether risk is past or present, occupational and/or environmental, and explores what else is at stake in redrawing the boundaries around local risks.