Rain Gardens Funding

A joint effort between me, the Delaware Nature Society, US Fish and Wildlife Services, and the Southbridge Community Development Corporation was successful in getting funding for rain gardens designs to help mitigate flood water and mosquitoes in Southbridge. Read more about the $25,000 grant in the News Journal here.

Misophonia Matters – New Publication in Sociology of Health & Illness

Dr. Asia Friedman and I just published a case study on the role of brain imaging in promoting and validating new diagnoses. Certain types of sound sensitivity have often been symptoms associated with other, established psychiatric conditions, but have not necessarily been promoted as discrete clinical entities (i.e., diagnoses on their own). Recently, researchers using brain imaging to study misophonia have been instrumental in making claims about the condition and establishing its legitimacy as a separate diagnosis. Here’s the abstract from our paper:

“Misophonia has gained attention in scientific circles that utilise brain imaging to validate diagnoses. The condition is promoted as not merely a symptom of other psychiatric diagnoses but as a discrete clinical entity. We illustrate the social construction of the diagnostic category of misophonia through examining prominent claims in research studies that use brain imaging to substantiate the diagnosis. We show that brain images are insufficient to establish the ‘brain basis for misophonia’ due to both technical and logical limitations of imaging data. Often misunderstood as providing direct access to the matter of the body, brain images are mediated and manipulated numerical data (Joyce, 2005, Social Studies of Science 35(3), p. 437). Interpretations of brain scans are further shaped by social expectations and attributes considered salient to the data. Causal inferences drawn from these studies are problematic because ‘misophonics’ are clinically pre-diagnosed before participating. We argue that imaging cannot replace the social process of diagnosis in the case of misophonia, nor validate diagnostic measures or otherwise substantiate the condition. More broadly, we highlight both the cultural authority and inherent limitations of brain imaging in the social construction of contested diagnoses while also illustrating its role in the disaggregation of symptoms into new diagnoses.”


My co-author, Bill Swiatek, and I just published a new commentary in the latest edition of the Delaware Journal of Public Health. This edition focuses on the issue of homelessness. In our commentary, we show the ways that housing precariousness can interact with climate change impacts, including heat islands and more frequent and intense storm surges, in Delaware. We highlight the role of planning and transportation infrastructure changes to help ameliorate the negative effects of climate change on the homeless. Check it out here, starting on page 60 (no paywall!).

New Publication in the Delaware Journal of Public Health

In the August 2022 issue Place Matters, Bill Swiatek and I have a new article entitled “Greening, Revitalization, and Health in South Wilmington, Delaware.” From the abstract: “We highlight the potential for paradoxical impacts of green infrastructure integrated with urban redevelopment. Absent directly addressing social inequalities in parallel efforts, green infrastructure may lead to negative health outcomes of disadvantaged residents, including eventual displacement. We present the research literature and reviews on this topic. We next highlight the case of recent in-migration of higher-income Whites and others in South Wilmington, Delaware, spurred on by high-end Riverfront redevelopment at Christina Landing. This migration may obscure how greening efforts—such as a new wetlands park to control area flooding—influence health outcomes in Southbridge, a low-income, African American neighborhood also within South Wilmington. The area’s Census tract boundary, often used in both health and equity assessments, is shared by these distinctive communities. When viewed through the lens of inequality, greening can have multi-faceted impacts that structure health outcomes. We underscore the importance of the mitigation of its potentially harmful effects.”

Trigger Warnings and Teaching Sociology

Several years ago, then-UD graduate student Andrea Kelley (now PhD!) and I gave an informative talk on trigger warnings when teaching sensitive topics in sociology. It came about because I once suggested to them, and was glad that they responded the way they did (“not a good idea!”), that I could “accidentally” eat a Snickers bar into the microphone before class started to begin a discussion of misophonia.

Thinking about trigger warnings has changed some since them, and new research is detailing the complexity and nuance of them. Here are two interesting recent pieces that you should check out if you are considering trigger warnings in your class before certain topics:

“The Data Is In: Trigger Warnings Don’t Work” (paywall through The Chronicle of Higher Education)

“Beyond Trigger Warnings: A Survivor-Centered Approach to Teaching on Sexual Violence and Avoiding Institutional Betrayal” (from ASA’s Teaching Sociology)