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Article: Sensing Policy: Engaging Affected Communities at the Intersections of Environmental Justice and Decolonial Futures

Wiebe, Sarah Marie (2019). “Sensing Policy: Engaging Affected Communities at the Intersections of Environmental Justice and Decolonial Futures”, Politics, Groups and Identities. Vol 8(1): 181-193. 


Pushing back against an extractive approach to research to center relationships, this paper draws from ethnographic sensibilities and community vignettes to discuss what academic-activists and political scientists can learn from communities’ situated bodies of knowledge. Tensions emerge when those most directly affected by public policy decisions are excluded from the decision-making process. Consultation leaves many encountering a paradox: their lived experiences are discredited even when they are invited to participate. This paper offers an imaginative approach to the design of participatory policy processes and asks: how can decision-makers meaningfully engage affected parties in pursuit of environmentally just policy creation? In response, this paper argues that bodies generally, and guts specifically, are political. To do so, I flesh out how a sensing policy approach to public engagement and socially engaged research can assist those crafting policies – including, laws, programs and service-delivery – to address contentious multilayered environmental justice issues. These include concerns for more-than-human life. Reflecting on experiences of community-engagement with Indigenous communities in Canada and Hawaiʻi, sensing policy builds from interpretive methods and intersectionality-based policy analysis to inform and potentially improve decision-making processes by taking seriously the experiences, knowledges and voices of those most affected by the government (in)decisions.


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