Du Bois, Inequality, and Environment- From the classical to the cutting edge

Source- Humphrey, Willis. 2008. Mapping Courage

Sociology is in the midst of dramatically reframing its canon in order to acknowledge and incorporate the work that W.E.B. Du Bois put forth to establish our social-scientific discipline in its modern empirical form. In this project I and several collaborators ( such as Rachel McKane, Jordan Fox Besek, David Pellow, and Brett Clark,) highlight that Du Bois’ unique epistemology and positionality led him to grapple with sociological questions that continue to be of interest to scholars in a wide range of disciplines today, including environmental sociology and environmental justice. Among these were explorations into the social construction of disaster, the historical co-development of human, non-human animal, and environmental harms, and the development of what would now be called food deserts. Such work, and the interdisciplinary thought, rooted in the Black Radical Tradition, that underpinned it uniquely positions Du Boisian thought as a useful model for socio-ecological scholarship - especially when concerned with race and other spheres of social inequality. In response to challenges such as globalization and climate change, this work suggests that environmental justice and climate justice research, in particular, must be increasingly multi-causal, multi-scalar, interdisciplinary, and cautious of centralized authority - as David Pellow suggests in his Critical Environmental Justice Framework. To this end, I argue that Du Bois embodied many of the most valuable aspects social scientific empistemic pluralism, and that such an approach will be invaluable to the fields of environmental justice studies and environmental sociology as they move into the future.

Assistant Professor of Sociology and Public Policy Studies

I am interested in the relationships between development, inequality, and environmental change.