p1020676Michael Mascarenhas is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environ-mental Science, Policy and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Where the Waters Divide: Neoliberalism, White Privilege, and Environmental Racism in Canada (2012) and New Humanitarianism and the Crisis of Charity. Good Intentions on the Road to Help (2107). He has written on water, wolves, seed-saving, standards, supermarkets, family farms, and forests; examining the interconnections between contemporary neoliberal reforms, environmental change, and environmental justice and racism. This interdisciplinary body of research brings together concepts from critical race theory and environmental studies to cultivate knowledge that contributes to activism and coalition politics.

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Research Interests

My expertise and scholarship are in the fields of Political Economy/Ecology, Postcolonial and Global Studies, Science and Technology Studies, and Environmental Justice. In general terms, my research examines the relationship between neoliberalism, race, and environmental justice and racism on historically marginalized groups, populations and regions.


Water Politics and Neoliberal Reforms

I have studied water access in the cities of Flint and Detroit, as well as the politics of drinking water in Canada, Rwanda, and India. These case studies demonstrate that water access is increasingly precarious for historically marginalized groups, Indigenous Peoples, African Americans, and people of color worldwide. I look at contemporary neoliberal policies and reforms to see how they perpetuate structural inequalities. Neoliberalism is not only downsizing democracy but also creating both the material and ideological forces for new forms of discrimination around the globe, particularly with regard to water access.


Environmental Racism

Work on environmental racism reveals how white privilege comes into play with urban and environmental planning. I have used this lens to look at superfund sites in the United States, and urban parks in Canada and New York. In a collaborative project, we use GIS mappings and census data to examine a controversy that has come to be known as the “race versus class debate” among environmental justice scholars and practitioners. We found that racial disparities are more prevalent and extensive than socioeconomic disparities, and race continues to be the primary predictor of where hazardous wastes are located in the United States.


Humanitarian Aid and Biopolitics

Through field work in Rwanda, this work examines how financial capital, corporate philanthropy, social entrepreneurialism, and business management principles have been reconfigured to solve the most pressing problems of modern society.  I argue that “new humanitarianism” signals the rejection of a universal right to relief in times of crisis, producing a new form of biopolitics where the growth of financial and information flows, and the popularity of philanthropy and entrepreneurship are increasingly reshaping both the politics of inequality and the attributes of dispossession.


Diversity and Racism in Post-Secondary Education

Colleges and Universities continue to underserve students of color in spite of diversity quotas and policies. Through a qualitative study using focus group interviews, this research examines the experiences of students of color and ethnic minorities in an effort to understand how race and ethnicity influence campus life, campus community, and the achievement of minority students and students of color in higher education. This research suggests that access to post-secondary education in the United States is only “half the battle” for students of color as they continue to be subject to both individual and institutional forms of racism.


Education & Experience

I hold an MS in forestry from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and a PhD in sociology from Michigan State University. I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Applied Ethics at UBC and have held teaching appointments at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I was an expert witness at the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in 2017 on the Flint Water Crisis, and an invited speaker to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning.


2005 Michigan State University, PhD Sociology

1999 University of British Columbia, MS Forestry










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