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Meet the Team


Dr Alice Mah: Principal Investigator

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Dr Alice Mah is an urban, political, and environmental sociologist. Her wide-ranging research interests lie at the intersection of critical political economy, multi-sited ethnography, and science and technology studies.Alice holds a PhD in Sociology from the London School of Economics. She is the author of Industrial Ruination, Community, and Place (2012), winner of the 2013 BSA Philip Abrams Memorial Prize, and Port Cities and Global Legacies (2014). She has conducted comparative, mixed-method sociological research in the UK, France, Russia, the US, and Canada.Alice is the Principal Investigator of Toxic Expertise. This project builds on themes from her previous research on the toxic legacies of abandoned chemical industries in Niagara Falls and on petrochemical pollution in the Mississippi Chemical Corridor. Alice will be conducting research across the project as a whole, focusing particularly on the global and participatory levels.


You can contact Alice via email on A.A.Mah@warwick.ac.uk

Dr Thom Davies: Research Fellow

tom.jpgDr Thom Davies is a human geographer and photographer interested in issues related to environmental justice, marginalisation, exclusion and risk perception. Before joining Warwick, Thom completed his CEELBAS funded PhD at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham in 2015. His thesis research involved in-depth ethnographic research with communities who live around the Chernobyl Nuclear Exclusion Zone in north-central Ukraine, where he employed a number of visual and participatory research methods.

In 2014 Thom was awarded a scholarship from the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) to conduct comparative qualitative research in Fukushima with communities afflicted by the 2011 nuclear accident. During his JSPS scholarship he was based at the University of Tokyo, and interviewed evacuees, NGOs, clean-up workers and farmers who have refused to leave the Fukushima Exclusion Zone. More recently, Thom was awarded urgency funding from the ESRC to research the ‘new Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais, northern France. He worked with public health experts and NGOs to produce the first academic study of the informal migrant camp, looking at environmental health conditions in the camp including microbiological risks and air pollution.

Thom is now working as a post-doctoral Research Fellow on the ERC-funded project ‘Toxic Expertise’ in the Sociology Department at Warwick University. During this project he will be researching the contested expertise surrounding the petrochemical industry in Europe and the USA, with a special ethnographic focus on fenceline communities who live in ‘Cancer Alley’, Louisiana. He is interested in interviewing policy makers, NGOs, grass-roots activists, corporate representatives and communities impacted positively and negatively by the processes of the petrochemical industry.

You can contact Thom via email on T.Davies.5@warwick.ac.uk

Dr Cynthia Xinhong Wang: Research Fellow

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Dr Cynthia Wang completed her PhD in Social Sciences (China Studies) at the Centre for East Asian studies, University of Turku, Finland. She also holds an MSc (International Human Rights Law) Åbo Akademi, Finland, and an LLB (Chinese Law) Tsinghua University, China. Her doctoral dissertation is entitled "Open Environmental Information Upon Disclosure Request in China: The Paradox of Legal Mobilization". In her dissertation, she took a realist view that law is part of politics and argued that Chinese citizens and environmental organizations have been actively engaged themselves in utilizing the new information disclosure laws to push government agencies to comply with the laws, thus constituting a legal mobilization and making social and political changes.

At present, Cynthia is a post-doctoral Research Fellow on the ERC-funded project “Toxic Expertise” at the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick. She will examine how people from different backgrounds, inter alia, petrochemical representatives, scientific and legal professionals, citizens and activists, think, talk, and act regarding the environmental impact of petrochemical plants, as well as environmental pollution and environmental justice in China. Her research interests include open government information, environmental law, environmental justice and human rights law.

You can contact Cynthia via email on X.Wang.39@warwick.ac.uk

Dr Loretta Lou: Research Fellow

LOU Dr Loretta Lou is Research Fellow of the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick and a Postdoctoral Associate at Oxford’s Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA). Loretta’s research interests lie in the areas of the environment, science and technology studies (STS), health, social movements and social changes in China, East, and Southeast Asia. After she received her DPhil in Anthropology from the University of Oxford, she went on to work as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies (SIAS) for the Forum on Health, Environment and Development (FORHEAD) before joining Toxic Expertise.

Loretta’s doctoral research was an ethnographic study of a new way of living called ‘green living’ in Hong Kong. She was interested in the implications of green living for self-nature relationship, social dynamics, ethics, political mobilizations, and the ways these domains are being shaped by Hong Kong’s social and political climate since its handover from British to Chinese sovereignty. One of the questions underpinning her research on green living was: What makes people ‘go green’? Why are some people more committed to environmentally friendly practices than others? Her interest in (environmental) subjectivities has led her to focus on the other side of the coin in her postdoctoral research: Why are people apathetic to environmental issues? Is NIMBY inevitable? She will explore these questions in relation to environmental justice, corporate social responsibility, NIMBY protests, and China’s petrochemical industry during her time at Warwick.

Prior to her academic career, Loretta worked as a public health researcher for the NHS, focusing on women’s experience of antenatal care in Scotland. She retains a strong interest in theoretical and applied medical anthropology and is now preparing a major study on the global network of professional post-natal care workers in various Chinese communities.

Loretta joins the team on November 1st 2017.

Selected publications:

2017 ‘The material culture of green living in Hong Kong’, in Anthropology Now. April: Volume 9 (1), pp.70-79.

2017 Review of ‘Anthropology of China: China as Ethnographic and Theoretical Critique’ (2016), by Charlotte Bruckermann and Stephan Feuchtwang, in LSE Review of Books.

2016 ‘Beyond Miracles: How traditional Chinese medicine establishes professional legitimacy in post-colonial Macau’, in Somatosphere: Science, Medicine, Anthropology.

2015 Review of ‘Ethical Eating in the Postsocialist and Socialist World’, edited by Melissa L. Caldwell, Jakob Klein, and Yuson Jung (2014), in Allegra: Anthropology, Law, Art & World.

2014 Review of ‘Green Politics in China: Environmental Governance and State–Society Relations’, by Joy Zhang and Michael Barr (2014), in The China Journal. Issue (72), pp.176-178.

2014 Hong Kong’s vegan guru. China Dialogue.

 Dr Thomas Verbeek: Research Fellow

Thomas Verbeek

Dr Thomas Verbeek obtained his PhD in Urban Planning at the Centre for Mobility and Spatial Planning at Ghent University (Belgium) in 2017. He also holds a MSc in Geography and in Urban Planning from Ghent University. His research interests include environmental health, urban governance and spatial justice. Within these fields he prefers to apply quantitative research methods to examine important policy issues.

His dissertation, entitled “Living Cities: Reconnecting Environmental Health and Urban Planning”, aimed to move beyond the lock-in of public health and urban planning and explore new approaches to deal with environmental health concerns in planning practice. Building on complexity theory, an environmental justice framework was proposed to localize environmentally unhealthy situations, and a matrix of planning strategies was presented to address these situations. The empirical research framework consisted of interviews, spatial data analysis, documentary analysis and a residents’ survey. The empirical part focused on the problem of local air pollution and traffic noise in the city of Ghent, in close collaboration with the city administrations and a local citizen initiative. By combining quantitative with qualitative results, case-specific and general policy recommendations were formulated that can lead to a more central place for health in urban planning.

Thomas' role on Toxic Expertise is to apply quantitative research methods to analyse toxic pollution and its context at different spatial levels, with a critical view on data collection. Research methods will include GIS mapping, statistical analysis, and corporate network analysis. He will also contribute to the development of a web-based international public resource on 'toxic expertise'.

You can contact Thomas via email on T.Verbeek@warwick.ac.uk

Mrs India Holme: Administrator

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India has worked in various project management/administration roles since 2009 and has been at the University of Warwick since 2011. India provides all the administrative support for the project. India completed her BA in Politics and Philosophy and MA in Global Politics and Law both at the University of Sheffield. Whilst not actively involved in any academic research, India's interested in some of the philosophical questions/arguments that are related to the existence of areas such as 'Cancer Alley'.India is also interested in public engagement and is keen to ensure that wherever possible she introduces research to the public in meaningful and interesting ways. She has recently been working on public facing events engaging all ages with the topics of climate change, air pollution and environmental justice.

You can contact India via email on India.foster@warwick.ac.uk