My name is Ali Kenner. I am a feminist, and a science and technology studies (STS) scholar. I study and write about how the environment impacts human health. I wrote a book about the U.S. asthma epidemic, and how we care for this disease as individuals and a society. I also study climate change, urban development, and inequality in Philadelphia.
I am also Associate Professor of Politics and Science, Technology, and Society at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, US. I teach courses in several programs, at both the undergraduate and graduate level. I earned my Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2011) and my M.A. in Women’s Studies from the University at Albany (2006). I also taught courses in both the Department of Science and Technology Studies (RPI) and the Department of Women’s Studies (UAlbany) as a graduate student and after.
As an interdisciplinary scholar I use a variety of tools for research and writing. I have been trained by anthropologists in the tradition of experimental ethnography. Most of my work involves collaboration across sectors and fields of expertise. Training students in social science research is a key focus of my activities at Drexel. I established the Philadelphia Health and Environment Ethnography Lab (PHEEL) to structure a broad range of research activities involving students, community organizers, municipal agencies, and NGOs. PHEEL is also part of a transnational STS research network, The Asthma Files, dedicated to studying air quality governance in sites around the world.
My work is broadly concerned with human experiences of environment, and our relationships to air quality, dwellings, wildlife, urban development, and climate change. I gather data about these human-environment relationships using semi-structured and oral history interviews, community-based workshops, and participant observation. In this work, I focus mostly on environmental harm and the practices we undertake to protect ourselves from harm — care, governance, knowledge-building, and collaboration. The relationship between environment and human health tells us a lot about inequity, injustice, and politics in our culture. I approach all of these dimensions and their intersections as issues of sociotechnical design.