Iris Young, in her chapter, “Polity and Group Difference”, from her book Throwing Like a Girl, examines society’s baseline assumption that “modern political thought generally,” assumes that the universality of, “citizenship status transcends particularity and difference” (Young, 1990, 114). Given that modern society has (over time) awarded full citizenship status (here read as equal political and civil rights) to all groups, why do we still see inequality and consequently oppression (ibid. 114)? Young postulates that this inequality still exists due to the irreconcilability of the specificity of groups trying to align with established assimilated norms of citizenship. And, unless you are a member of the group which created the assimilated norms, you cannot, metaphorically speaking, cross the river. To cross over suggests different types of groups (women, blacks, American Indians, Hispanic, elderly) must change holistically to create the homogeneity (historically – white bourgeoisie male) required for assimilation. And how does this idea of citizenship and assimilated norms impact science and the development of new knowledge? In Flint, we can see that the maldistribution of clean water was exacerbated by an extreme injustice of misrecognition – particularly among the poor and minority population of the city. These people should be heard by those in power (government) and those with authority to influence government decisions (scientists/engineers). They can and should identify data and create knowledge which has a direct impact on mitigating any negative risk brought upon them. In her essay, “The Five Faces of Oppression”, Young says that, “social justice requires not the melting away of differences, but institutions that promote reproduction of and respect for group difference without oppression” (Young, 1998, 94). So what are these institutions and how can they help bring participatory parity? As a STS community we need to ask ourselves, how should scientists and engineers engage effectively with a community such as Flint? How can they educate and inform a community and what (metrics) would we use to know if that community was indeed informed? What is the approach for these two entities (science and society) to achieving a shared understanding.
Young, Iris. (1990). Polity and Group Difference: A critique of the Ideal of Universal Citizenship. (I. Young). Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays in Feminist Philosophy and Social Theory. (pp.114-137). Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Young, Iris. (1998). Five Faces of Oppression. In A.E. Cud and R.O. Andreasen, eds., Feminist Theory: A Philosophical Anthology. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.