Research Spotlight: Interview with Dr. Katrinell Davis about Tainted Tap

Dr. Deana Rohlinger, the Associate Dean of faculty development and Community Engagement, interviews Dr. Katrinell Davis about her new book, Tainted Tap, which critically examines the ongoing Flint water crisis.

Rohlinger talks to Davis about growing up poor in Flint, doing community based research, and why the water crisis in Flint could happen in other cities across the U.S.

You can watch the full interview here:

Description of Tainted Tap:

After a cascade of failures left residents of Flint, Michigan, without a reliable and affordable supply of safe drinking water, citizens spent years demanding action from their city and state officials. Complaints from the city’s predominantly African American residents were ignored until independent researchers confirmed dangerously elevated blood lead levels among Flint children and in the city’s tap water. Despite a 2017 federal court ruling in favor of Flint residents who had demanded mitigation, those efforts have been incomplete at best.

Assessing the challenges that community groups faced in their attempts to advocate for improved living conditions, Tainted Tap offers a rich analysis of conditions and constraints that created the Flint water crisis. Katrinell Davis contextualizes the crisis in Flint’s long and troubled history of delivering essential services, the consequences of regional water-management politics, and other forms of systemic neglect that impacted the working-class community’s health and well-being. Using ethnographic and empirical evidence from a range of sources, Davis also sheds light on the forms of community action that have brought needed changes to this underserved community.

Praise for Tainted Tap:

“In this urgent volume, sociologist Katrinell Davis provides a useful framework for examining the dramatic, deadly effects of systemic environmental racism and explores what underserved communities might do to counteract mismanagement and neglect of essential service delivery.”–Ms. Magazine

“Flint holds an important place in our popular conscience. National reporting about the extensive toxic contamination in that city simultaneously served as a wake-up call for some Americans and an overdue acknowledgment for others. This nuanced yet accessible book uses Flint to raise awareness about environmental racism as a widespread, systemic, and complex problem that goes beyond corroded pipes.”–Tamara Leech, Montclair State University

“A brilliant, engaging, and sharp analysis of the Flint disaster. Davis’s research, meticulous and comprehensive, reveals the layers of mistreatment and abandonment endured for decades by the residents of this discarded city.”–Alice Fothergill, University of Vermont

“Davis’s analysis makes clear that Flint is not a one-off; rather, the poisoning and ongoing suffering in Flint is the outcome of a system of racialized capitalism that continues to disregard Black communities, families, and children. Tainted Tap provides an important road map for individuals interested in understanding and addressing environmental racism in Flint and beyond.”–Heather Dalmadge, Roosevelt University

Book available through University of North Carolina Press and at bookstores across the country.

Katrinell Davis is Associate Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Florida State University. She is a social change scholar inspired by the struggles of working-class people in urban areas who contend with extraordinary socioeconomic constraints, despite their best efforts. Through her teaching and scholarship, Davis explores how racial, gender and class biases as well as institutional constraints shape the accessibility of quality neighborhood resources and how social groups and/or communities navigate existing hurdles. Her first book, Hard Work is Not Enough (UNC Press 2017), captures how the workplace experiences of African American women who secured access to well-paying bus operating positions in the 1970s were undermined by disparate employment practices and declines in job quality. 

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