Lauren McGrath ’21
Visualizing Urban Structural Violence: Ethnographic Investigation Into the Current Impact of Historical Lead Smelting in Philadelphia’s River Wards
I examined how structural violence degrades the health of Philadelphia residents, specifcially in the northeastern corridor along the Delaware River. Structural violence refers to the specific health challenges residents encounter, such as lead contamination. It also refers to whether these residents’ narratives are privileged or ignored in the collection and visualization of local health data. My goal was to determine how residents envision the conditions that account for structural violence. I employed remote interviews and archival research, as well as visualizations synthesized from data provided by the city of Philadelphia and the Visualizing Philadelphia project at Princeton. I found that urban residents prioritize health concerns to different extents — for instance, lead contamination has a large impact on some residents’ lives, while others regard it as passive. I plan to continue this work for my thesis by comparing visualizations of local data that differ by whose perspective and narrative is considered. Future research will investigate how different populations perceive health conditions caused by structural violence, which will provide greater context as to how to confront and mitigate those conditions.
Urban Systems and Planning for a Sustainable Future
Ethnographic Data Visualization Lab, Department of Anthropology, Princeton University
Jeffrey Himpele, Director, Ethnographic Data Visualization Lab, Department of Anthropology; Aaron Shkuda, Program Manager, Princeton-Mellon Initiative, Architecture