Flint, Michigan, Leaking toxic metals, Flint water crisis, Biopolitics

Document Type

Research Paper


Biopolitics; State crimes; Water pollution


Flint, Michigan still doesn't have clean water or safe pipes. On the border between West Virginia and Pennsylvania, a coal ash pond called Little Blue Run has been leaking toxic metals into nearby streams for four decades (Patterson, 2018). While these two regions differ in their location and history, similarities can be contextualized and understood based on class, race, state sanctioned water contamination, the exploitation of natural resources, and environmental crimes. Given the factors at work when water crises occur, it is crucial to recognize the United States' practice of knowingly poisoning their citizens, to draw parallels between the practice of state powers explicitly prioritizing industries and profit over the health of citizens under their jurisdiction, and to recognize it as a piece of how racialized biopolitics are put into practice. The locations where this abuse of state control generally occurs, in an increasingly militarized and authoritarian manner, are the regions populated with higher percentages of people of color. In addition to the direct negative health effects of toxic water contaminants, these cases are indicators of how biopolitical control can be traced back to larger constructions of structural violence against state subjects. ot only do contaminants in the water (lead, trilomethanes, selenium, etc.) directly cause health problems, but constant systemic strife increases allostatic stress, as well as an unparalleled spike in what are referred to as "deaths of despair" (Lofton, 2018). All of these harms are facilitated by levels of continuous violence and obfuscation from direct blame, so it is urgent and necessary to name them and draw lines between them as a product of biopolitical control. The construction of the Flint water crisis, as well as the ongoing environmental degradation in the Appalachian region, are both instances of the state enacting a form of biopolitics onto the people living in those places. Although environmental justice experts and critical legal theorists have engaged with potential avenues for finding state-based solutions for a state problem (not to dismiss the activist work that has laid the groundwork for understanding the reach of the e issues), it could be argued that true justice and reconciliation cannot be fully achieved under the same structure of power that initially caused the harms.



Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Water pollution--Michigan--Flint; Water pollution--Appalachian Region; Coal mines and mining--Environmental aspects--Appalachian Region; State crimes--Michigan; State crimes--Appalachian Region; Biopolitics--Michigan; Biopolitics--Appalachian Region


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Rights Statement


Subjects - Names (LCNAF)

Flint (Mich.)

Geographic Coverage

Michigan; Appalachian Region









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