About

Michelle head 2015

Great Lake health, chemical violence, manual suction abortion kits, protocols, pap smears, drosophila in bottles, vibrio cholerae, GDP,  girls as human capital, queer fish, PCBs, sick buildings, pollution as colonialism, endocrine disrupting chemicals, phantasmagrams, data justice,  …

These are some of the technologies and phenomena I grapple with as a historian of the recent past and science and technology studies scholar.  My work focuses on technoscience as it relates to environmental and reproductive justice, data politics, chemical exposures, infrastructures, Indigenous science and technology studies, race, and colonialism.

I am the of Director of the Technoscience Research Unit, where I lead the Environmental Data Justice Lab, co-organize theTechnoscience Salon. I am a founding member of the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, Principle Investigator of the Endocrine Disruptors Action Group, and a lead editor on the journal Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, and Technoscience

I am a Professor in the History Department and Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto, I have additional graduate appointments at the  School of Environment, and the Faculty of Information (iSchool) at U of T, and in Science and Technology Studies and the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University.  I have a PhD in the History of Science from Harvard University (1998), and a Bachelors degree in Biology and History and Philosophy of Science and Technology from the University of Toronto (1992). I am urban Métis from Winnipeg and have lived in Tkaronto/Toronto since 2001.

 

I served on the steering committee of the Politics of Evidence Working Group and previously  served on the organizing committee of Our Right to Know.  From 1996-2007, I was the editor of RaceSci Website on the History of “Race” in Science, Medicine, and Technology.

Contact Information

2039 Wilson Hall
Women and Gender Studies Institute,  University of Toronto
40 Willcocks St, Toronto, ON M5S 1C6
email: michelle.murphy@utoronto.ca

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Publications

Books

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The Economization of Life  (Duke UP 2017)

Winner of the Ludwik Fleck Prize (2019) from the Society for Social Studies of Science.

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Seizing the Means of Reproduction: Entanglements of Feminism, Health and Technoscience  (Duke UP 2012)

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Sick Building Syndrome and the Problem of Uncertainty: Environmental Politics, Technoscience, and Women Workers (Duke UP, 2006) 

Winner of the Ludwik Fleck Prize (2008) from the Society for Social Studies of Science.   Blog interview with Jody Roberts about the book on World’s Fair

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Landscapes of Exposure: Knowledge and Exposure in Modern Environments 

Osiris v. 19 (University of Chicago Press, 2004) edited with Gregg Mitman and Christopher Sellers. Read the Introduction: “A Cloud over History”

Recent Articles

Published Lectures

Podcasts

Policy Papers

Collective Writing with EDGI

  • Dillon, L., Lave, R., Mansfied, B., Wylie, S., Shapiro, N., Chan, A., and Murphy, M. in press. “Situating Data in a Trumpian Era: The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers 
  • Lindsey Dillon, Vivian Underhill, Nicholas Shapiro, Christopher Sellers, Jennifer Liss Ohayon, Marianne Sullivan, Chris Amoss, Stephen Bocking, Phil Brown, Vanessa De La Rosa, Jill Harrison, Sara Johns, Katherine Kulik, Rebecca Lave, Michelle Murphy, Liza Piper, Lauren Richter, Sara Wylie, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative “The Environmental Protection Agency in the Early Trump Administration: Prelude to Regulatory Capture” American Journal of Public Health (April, 2018).
  • Leif Fredrickson, Christopher Sellers, Lindsey Dillon, Jennifer Liss Ohayon, Nicholas Shapiro, Marianne Sullivan, Chris Amoss, Stephen Bocking, Phil Brown, Vanessa De La Rosa, Jill Harrison, Sara Johns, Katherine Kulik, Rebecca Lave, Michelle Murphy, Liza Piper, Lauren Richter, Sara Wylie, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative “History of US Presidential Assaults on Modern Environmental Health Protection.” American Journal of Public Health (April, 2018)
  • Dillon, Lindsey, Dawn Walker, Nicholas Shapiro, Vivian Underhill, Megan Martenyi, Sara Wylie, Rebecca Lave, Michelle Murphy, and Phil Brown. “Environmental Data Justice and the Trump Administration: Reflections from the Environmental Data and Governance InitiativeEnvironmental Justice 10, no. 6 (October 5, 2017): 186–92.

Collaborations

Technoscience Research Unit (TRU) 

The TRU  is a home for graduate, postdoctoral, and faculty research in technoscience studies at the University of Toronto with a focus on critical and social justice approaches to the study of science and technology.   The TRU is located in the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto and is home to the Environmental Data Justice Lab. I have been the director of the TRU since its founding in 2007. The TRU is funded by a Connaught Global Challenge Award.

Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI)

EDGI is a North American network of 175 members from more than 30 different academic institutions and 10 non-profit or grassroots organizations, as well as caring and committed volunteers who come from a broad spectrum of work and life backgrounds. We work in collaboration with other organizations and communities concerned about climate change, science policy, good governance, and environmental and data justice with a focus on the United States. EDGI analyzes federal environmental data, websites, institutions, and policy, as well as seeks to improve environmental data stewardship and to promote environmental health and environmental justice. EDGI has four major program areas: ONE: archiving  vulnerable environmental data, TWO: monitoring changes to information about the environment, energy, and climate on federal websites, THREE: interviewing federal employees about threats and changes to environmental health agencies, and FOUR: imagining, conceptualizing, and moving toward Environmental Data Justice. Our work in these areas has yielded three major reports, numerous website monitoring reportsacademic articlespublic comments on regulations, op-ed and analysis pieces written for the public, and extensive coverage  in the news. EDGI is viewed as the preeminent watchdog group for material on federal environmental data issues on government websites. Our work is widely acknowledged, including hundreds of mentions in leading national and international media such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN. For more about our accomplishments, read our Annual Report.  I am a founding member of EDGI, served on the steering committee from 2016-2018, organized the first EDGI data archiving event, and lead the Environmental Data Justice Working Group.

The Technoscience Salon.

Launched in 2008, the Technoscience Salon is an open forum for entangling intellectual and political questions about technoscience while remixing the disciplines composing Science and Technology Studies. Meeting monthly, the Salon aims to create a lively community of thinkers with interests in technoscience studies from around the GTA and beyond. The Salon aspires to prompt political, playful, experimental engagements, as well as new collaborations and conversations.

Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience

I am thrilled to be part of the editorial collective collaborating to make possible this journal, as well as to serve as a lead editor from 2017-2019. supports the expanding interdisciplinary field of feminist science and technology studies by supporting theoretically inventive and methodologically creative scholarship incorporating approaches from critical public health, disability studies, postcolonial studies, queer theory, sci-art, technology and digital media studies, history and philosophy of science and medicine.

Endocrine Disruptors Action Group

Endocrine Disruptors Action is a working group of researchers concerned with the widespread presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals in commodities, built environments, industrial emissions, ecosystems, waters, and atmospheres.  EDAction advocates for improvements to Canadian toxics governance and seeks to advance critical discussions about the regulation, science, and monitoring of endocrine disrupting chemicals. The work of EDAction is funded by  the Alterlife SSHRC Insight Grant.

Engineered Worlds

Bringing together historians, geographers, anthropologists, environmental artists, and security and science studies experts, the Engineered Worlds project seeks re-theorization the cumulative global environmental effects of industry. The impacts of human industrial activity – extreme weather, rising oceans, changing habitats, shifting food sources, and new health challenges – render problematic the longstanding nature-culture binary that has shaped science studies and cultural anthropology. To understand these impacts, we need new concepts that are adequate to the problem of a radically changing biosphere. The Engineered Worlds project is funded by the Neubaurer Collegium and led by Joseph Masco at the University of Chicago in collaboration with Tim Choy, Jake Kosek, and Michelle Murphy.<

Select Past Collaborations:

Work in Progress

Alterlife in the Ongoing Aftermaths of Chemical Exposure

Global biomonitoring studies have found industrially produced chemicals in the blood and breast milk of every single living person tested, suggesting that all humans, and perhaps most life forms, have been materially altered by the absorption of such human-invented chemicals released over the last century.  Emerging research in environmental epigenetics and related scientific fields have traced how the effects of such chemical exposures can produce effects that persist across generations in the health of future children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and beyond.  We are living in a historic moment when life on earth unevenly shares s condition of already having been altered by human-made chemicals, a condition that might be called alterlife.  Alterlife names a historically new form of life that is altered by the chemical violence of capitalism and colonialism.

The Alterlife in the Ongoing Aftermaths project works towards decolonial approaches to understanding chemical exposures in the lower Great Lakes, which is Anishinaabe and Haudenoshaunee land. The project is organized around three concerns. First, creating non-damage based accounts of chemical violence while still attending to the ways chemicals are part of the infrastructures of settler colonialism, racism, and capitalism that concentrate and distribute destructions and benefits. Second, finding critical and creative ways of using environmental data to create ways of holding governments and petrochemical companies responsibile for environmental violence. And third, expanding our understanding of industrial chemicals, and especially endocrine disrupting chemicals, to view them as structures, not molecules, that extend in time and disrupt land/body relations. This includes attending to the intergenerational and looping temporalities between many pasts and possible futures as a way to rethink the politics of chemicals. And fourth, the condition of alterlife invites us to attend to the possibility of alternative life forms, of life otherwise, and of future survival.  Contemporary environmental politics is replete with apocalyptic anxieties, and descriptions of doomed and damaged communities.  The Great Lakes region is rich with counter-histories and alter-futures within theories, art, and practices. This project develops the notion of alterlife in engagement with Indigenous futurities and  against doomsday temporalities and colonial timescapes. It strives to foster approaches that amplify decolonial, reparative, and feminist potentials about a future of resurgence.

This research is SSHRC funded.

Listen to “Alterlife in the Aftermath” in Panel 1 at the Engineered Worlds conference at the University of Chicago (October 2015) organized by Joseph Masco. 

“Distributed Reproduction” talk at the Life (Un)Ltd. event in 2012 at UCLA’s Center for the Study of Women, organized by Rachel Lee.

Teaching

Undergraduate courses:

WGS 273 :: Gender and Environmental (In) Justice

WGS 4xx :: Toxic Worlds and Decolonial Futures

HIS 389 :: Environmental Pasts and Futures of the Great Lakes

HIS 389 :: Technologies of Reproduction

WGS 273 :: Gender and Environmental Injustice

WGS 440 :: Decolonial Cyborgs for Planetary Survival

HIS 202 :: Gender, Race, and Science

HIS 496 :: Sex, Money, and American Empire

WGS 262 :: Theories, Texts, Histories

Recent Graduate Teaching

HIS 1003 :: Indigenous and Decolonial Technoscience Studies

HIS 1004 :: Alterlife, Conditions, Aftermaths (four campus collaborative course with Tim Choy, Jake Kosek and Joseph Masco)

HIS1003 :: Theories, Histories Imaginaries: Themes in Technoscience

HIS1004 :: History and Biopolitics

WGS 1000 :: Theories, Texts, Histories