Othermothering in Detroit, MI: Understanding Race and Gender Inequalities in Green Stormwater Infrastructure Labor

Authors: Elizabeth Riedman*, Temple University
Topics: Gender
Keywords: Green Stormwater Infrastructure, Othermothering, Labor, Gender, Race
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 6
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As cities increasingly look towards the promotion of Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) in order to mitigate the effects of combined sewer overflows and stormwater pollution, the role of citizen labor is often expected and required for the success of these projects. Cities in the United States have come to rely upon such contributions from residents, however, very rarely do policies consider the impact of this request of labor. This paper aims to address this gap by employing Patricia Hill Collin’s theoretical framework of Othermothering in order to analyze qualitative data collected in 2017 with a Detroit city sponsored GSI educational program. Combined with ethnographic storytelling, I highlight the work Black Detroit women are putting into improving their city and argue for the application of a Black feminist labor lens in understanding current race and gender divides in volunteer labor within GSI Initiatives. Together, analysis reveals how the labor contributed by Black women continues to be unfairly requested, unpaid, and essential to the success of GI projects, while also becoming a site of resistance for larger structural inequalities in the surrounding urban landscape.

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