Assistant Professor of American Studies:
Center for the Study of Race & Ethnicity
Elizabeth Hoover is a Native American Studies/anthropology/environmental studies/ museum studies/ science and technology studies scholar who works on contemporary environmental justice in Native American communities, indigenous farming and subsistence revival movements, Native American museum curation, and community engaged research.
My current book project, tentatively titled "'The River is in Us:' Fighting Toxics in a Mohawk Community," is based on my dissertation research with the Mohawk community of Akwesasne. This project examines how industrial sites along the St Lawrence River (which bisects the community), and subsequent health studies around these sites, have affected people's perceptions of their bodies and the environment. After interviewing community members who served as health study participants, university and tribal scientists, Mohawk field workers, and average residents, I explore the triumphs, tribulations and lessons learned in carrying out a decade-long environmental health project, as well as community ideas for how to better communicate the results of this research. This project also explores diabetes-- the community health condition that currently garners the most attention-- community etiologies for this condition, and its connection to changed lifeways and environments. I end with exploring the ways in which the community's food systems have been disrupted, and current movements to reclaim local food through gardening projects. Tying these themes together is an exploration of the "social body" as a locus for effective health interventions, community based research, subsistence renewal, and environmental education.
My second book project is tentatively titled "From 'Garden Warriors' to 'Good Seeds': Indigenizing the Local Food Movement." Through a study of a dozen different American Indian garden projects across the US, this project will examine the Native American gardening movement as a food sovereignty/ health promotion/ cultural preservation movement distinct from, but connected to, the broader local food movement. While food justice proponents criticize the broader local food movement as being too representative of white middle-class concerns, community gardens are often found in urban areas where they are more accessible to minorities. In American Indian communities, many of which are rural, community garden projects are cited as a means of working towards food sovereignty, or the ability of the community to control their own food cultures, markets and modes of production. Garden projects have also been heralded as a means of transferring culture to youth and improving the dietary related health conditions that are currently plaguing Indian Country. During 2013-2014, I will visit an assortment of Native gardening projects to interview leaders and participants in order to learn more about their motivations for participating, the successes and challenges the group has faced in running their project, the ways in which tribal history and heritage has influenced the gardens, how each group defines and envisions food sovereignty, and the extent to which each project envisions itself as part of a larger food movement.
My most recent publications include a collaborative piece in Environmental Health Perspectives introducing the concept of environmental reproductive justice ("Indigenous Peoples of North America: Environmental Exposures and Reproductive Justice" http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1205422/ ), as well as an article in Ecological Processes about the cultural impacts of fish advisories on Native American communities (http://www.ecologicalprocesses.com/content/2/1/4).
I also serve as a co-leader for the Community Engagement Core of Brown's Superfund Research Program, working with community organizations on environmental health, justice and education issues. If our recently submitted grant renewal is successful, we will continue to work with the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, the Environmental Justice League of RI, and the Urban Pond Procession, as well as begin new projects with the Narragansett Indian Tribe, the Rhode Island Indian Council, and the Blackstone River Watershed Council.
In addition, I am working to develop a Native American Studies Program at Brown. In conjunction with a dozen other interested colleagues across multiple disciplines, we have formed the Native American and Indigenous Studies at Brown (NAISAB) interest group. We were recently successful in obtaining a Faculty Lectureship Award to sponsor a Native American/Indigenous Studies lecture series through the 2013-2014 academic year.
As a graduate student at Brown I was an active member of NAB (Native Americans at Brown), and I now serve as the faculty mentor for NAB, which has grown to over 25 active students. NAB had our first annual powwow in 2002, and it has grown into a major annual event here in New England.