Community-Engaged Oral History: Voices Unheard Arizona’s Environmental History

Authors: Denise Moreno Ramírez*, The University of Arizona , Mónica D. Ramírez-Andreotta, The University of Arizona, Jamie A. Lee, The University of Arizona, Mark Nichter, The University of Arizona, Janick Artiola, The University of Arizona, Raina M. Maier , The University of Arizona
Topics: Environment, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: community-engaged research, oral history, environmental justice,
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


It is necessary to listen to the stories of individuals and to document local knowledge about environmental issues. Voices Unheard: Arizona’s Environmental History Project recovers the historical accounts, descriptions, and insights from people living and working near two contaminated sites in Arizona. The Tucson International Airport Area Superfund site (Tucson, Arizona) is impacted primarily by a metal degreaser called trichloroethylene and the Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund site (Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona) contains mine waste with arsenic and lead. The Voices Unheard Project draws on lived experiences, along with archival documents, to tell complex stories of health impacts, environmental change, and community observations. The project combines environmental science, medical anthropology, and oral history to implement a mixed approach and create a community-engaged platform (community-engaged oral history). Besides establishing a public archive, value-added results include: 1) oral histories contain environmental observations by community members (empirical) that can supplement missing scientific information about the Superfund site or health outcomes, 2) community-engaged oral history is a tool to critically dissect the history of Superfund sites, and 3) community-engaged oral history can improve the qualitative tools applied by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Community Involvement personnel. By encapsulating environmental history, the project creates an invaluable and rich archive by establishing primary sources of history that are accessible online and at local libraries. Most importantly, the oral histories add to the environmental and historical narratives of these Superfund sites by amplifying the voices of those who often go unheard.

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