The Eugene M. Lang '38 Visiting Professorship for Issues of Social Change

Dr. Giovanna Di Chiro, Lang Visiting Professor 2013-2015

Dr. Giovanna Di Chiro, Lang Visiting Professor 2012-2015

Dr. Giovanna Di Chiro is the Lang Professor for Issues of Social Change at Swarthmore College, and Policy Advisor for Environmental Justice at Nuestras Raíces, Inc. in Holyoke, Massachusetts. She has published widely on the intersections of environmental science and policy, with a focus on social and economic disparities and human rights. She is co-editor of the volume Appropriating Technology: Vernacular Science and Social Power and is completing a book titled Embodied Ecologies: Science, Politics, and Environmental Justice. Di Chiro's current work examines environmental justice activists' reframing of the climate change debate to focus on the local, bodily impacts of wide-scale environmental problems like global warming. She is widely known for her research and practice focusing on community-based approaches to sustainability and the intersections of social justice and sustainability.

Di Chiro teaches environmental studies and gender studies and collaborates with environmental justice organizations to conduct community-based research on environmental health concerns and on developing culturally relevant sustainability initiatives in poor and low-income communities.  She has received numerous research fellowships and grants, including from the Rockefeller Foundation, the University of California Humanities Research Institute, the American Association of University Women, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2013, Di Chiro was appointed to the National Advisory Council on Environmental Policy and Technology, a Federal Advisory Committee that reports to the Administrator of the EPA. She chairs the sub-committee on Social Justice and Sustainability. Di Chiro has a background in Biology with a Master of Science (M.S.) in Environmental Studies from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in History of Consciousness from the University of California, an interdisciplinary program integrating her background in biology, environmental studies, and socio-cultural theory. Both her research and teaching emphasize the interdisciplinary linkages among the social sciences, the natural sciences, and the humanities with an applied problem-solving focus integrating the fields of environmental justice, community-based environmental science, and sustainable development for social change. Di Chiro worked as a marine biologist for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and conducted research in tropical biology and environmental education through the Smithsonian Institute and the Organization of American States. Di Chiro has over 20 years teaching experience, and has held faculty positions in Environmental Studies at Deakin University (Australia), University of California (Santa Cruz), Allegheny College, and Mount Holyoke College.

Joining together her expertise in environmental science and policy and her commitment to human rights and social justice, Di Chiro has collaborated with numerous community organizations representing low income communities in the United States, India, Puerto Rico, and Indigenous communities working at the U.S./Mexico border and for Native American struggles for environmental justice. Di Chiro's co-edited volume, Appropriating Technology (Minnesota, 2004), consists of a series of case studies documenting marginalized communities' use/appropriation of a range of technologies in their social change efforts. In the book's environment section, Di Chiro analyzed the fluidity of the border zone between community activism and technological innovation for social and environmental justice to show how collaborative efforts across differences of race, class, gender, and expertise often work to bring about change. These ideas are illustrated in topics such as community members' use of GIS mapping systems to track air and water quality in New York City, village-based agroforestry and co-management approaches in Kenya, and video and film technologies in Western Shoshone anti-nuclear and land rights struggles in Nevada.

Di Chiro's current manuscript, Embodied Ecologies: Science, Politics, and Environmental Justice, focuses on her concepts of "embodied" or "situated" environmental science and community-based environmental justice activism. The central argument of the book interrogates conventional environmental science and policy approaches, which tend to concentrate on macro-level frameworks of organized power: states, markets, global institutions, global environmental sciences, and international environmental organizations. With attention to local, community-based environmental change efforts, Embodied Ecologies examines the creation of innovative coalitions that produce new, hybrid forms of environmental expertise and dynamic, local environmental advocacy that see the critical connections to non-local, national, and global processes.

As a faculty member in Environmental Studies at Mount Holyoke College, Di Chiro partnered with the environmental justice organization, Nuestras Raíces through her community-based courses Urban Ecology and Environmental Justice Studies. During this time she served as a faculty partner supporting the organization's environmental health projects and wrote several grants for the organization including an EPA CARE Level I grant (2006) and EPA CARE Level II (2009). From 2009-2012 Di Chiro directed Nuestras Raíces' EPA CARE program developing training programs for local leaders advancing the organization's mission to promote sustainable economic development, community/urban agriculture, and environmental health. This program has brought together academic, government, and community members to develop culturally appropriate environmental education programs to solve local problems and to create sustainable and just economic development policies in the region. Together with other community partners involved in these social and environmental change efforts, Di Chiro helped found the community-based energy services corporation, Energía ( Energía is a hybrid for profit/not-for-profit, community-owned enterprise organized around the "triple bottom line" business philosophy committed to employing low-income community residents, establishing a worker cooperative management structure, and promoting energy conservation and wider environmental benefits.  Under Di Chiro's leadership, Nuestras Raíces' EPA CARE-funded environmental programs were highlighted in the EPA's "Promising Practices" program, and the organization was recognized in October 2011 as one of the EPA CARE's "Champions of Change."

Di Chiro is a member of an international research collaborative (headquartered at the Institute for Social Science, Erasmus University, The Hague) focusing on Social Justice, Globalisation and Sustainability, and currently works with local organizations in Philadephia and Chester, Pennsylvania, supporting community-based sustainable development and climate justice partnerships.


2012-15 Giovanna Di Chiro, Environmental Studies

  • Giovanna Di Chiro, scholar of environmental science and policy, with focus on economic inequality, human rights, and community-based approaches to social justice.

2010-12 Louis Massiah, Black Studies & Film and Media Studies

  • award winning film-maker and founder and executive director of the Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia.

2009-10 Ana Celia Zentella, Linguistics

  • Ana Celia Zentella, anthro-political linguist and recognized leader in building appreciation for language diversity and respect for language rights

2006-09 George Lakey, Peace & Conflict Studies

  • George Lakey, leader in the field of nonviolent social change since the 1960s and founder and executive director of Training for Change

2005-06 Herbert Kohl, Educational Studies

  • Herbert Kohl, visionary educational activist and author of influential text 36 Children

2002-03 Sulak Sivarasksa, Religion

  • Sulak Sivaraksa, an engaged Buddhist activist from Thailand

2001-02 Music & Dance; Computer Science, Modern Languages

  • Jacek Luminsky, Music and Dance, internationally acclaimed Polish choreographer
  • Eric Roberts, Computer Science, from Stanford University, renown for his contributions to computer science education.
  • Gerty Dambury, Modern Languages-poet, playwright, and theater director

2000-01 Denis Halliday, Peace & Conflict Studies

  • Denis Halliday H'02, former head of United Nations humanitarian programs who resigned his position in protest against the effects of sanctions against Iraq.

2000-01 Linda Gordon, History and Women's Studies

  • Linda Gordon, social historian specializing in gender and family issues.

1999-00 Peace and Conflict Studies; Computer Science

  • Denis Halliday, Peace  and Conflict Studies.
  • Eric Roberts, Computer Science, from Stanford University, renown for contributions to computer science education

1998-99 Peyton McCrary, Political Science

  • Peyton McCrary, historian with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.

1997-98 Peter Taylor, Biology

  • Peter Taylor, a biologist specializing in modeling behavior, population genetics, and evolutionary stability.

1996-97 John Baugh, Sociology/Anthropology and Linguistics

  • John Baugh, director of the Center for African and African-American Studies at Washington University, St. Louis, and a linguist honored for his work on Black American speech.

1995-96 Paul Platero, Linguistics

  • Paul Platero, linguist specializing in Athabaskan languages

1994-95 Luis Camacho, Philosophy

  • Luis Camacho, philosopher and president of the Costa Rican Philosophical Association, known for examining the relations between science, technology and development.

1993-94 Sue-Ellen Case, Theater and English Literature

  • Sue-Ellen Case, a past editor of Theater Journal who published widely in the fields of German theater, feminism and theater, performance theory, and lesbian critical theory.

1992-93 Sociology; Political Science

  • Arlie Hochschild, Sociology and Anthropology. University of California-Berkeley leading sociologist who examines market culture's effects on everyday life, the dynamics of work and family, gender and labor and emotion.
  • Nadinne Cruz, Political Science. Nadinne Cruz, author, speaker, activist, and expert in service learning.

1991-92 Carol Cohn, Sociology and Anthropology

  • Carol Cohn, director of the Boston Consortium on Gender Security and Human Rights.

1990-91 Uri Treisman, Mathematics & Statistics

  • Uri Treisman, mathematician acclaimed for demonstrating strategies for high achievement in math and the sciences by women and minority students.

1989-90 Sociology and Anthropology; Mathematics and Statistics

  • Herman Blake, Sociology and Anthropology, esteemed educator and higher education administrator.
  • Uri Treisman, Mathematics & Statistics.