Shannon Cram


Assistant Professor

B.A. Geography and Minor in Women's Studies, Humboldt State University
M.A. Geography, University of Oregon
Ph.D. Geography, University of California, Berkeley

Email: scram@uw.edu
Office: UW2-309
Website: shannoncram.com


I want students to come away from my classes as more thoughtful and engaged cultural critics.  This means creating a learning environment that inspires intellectual excitement and commitment and welcomes thoughtful dissent.  I think the best courses are those that encourage students to think critically about social and environmental processes and I favor activities and assignments that bring the classroom and greater social environment together in meaningful ways. 

Broadly, my courses explore the social and political boundaries of science, culture, and environment.  I encourage students to ask critical questions about the relationship between power and knowledge production, and to unsettle dominant narratives in science and policy that rely upon mechanistic understandings of humans and nature.  In my classes, we think about issues like toxic exposure, racial identity, climate change, gender and sexuality, waste and value.  We consider the challenges of scientific and environmental decision making, and ask how it is possible to engage productively in both critique and action.

Recent Courses

BIS 293 - The Politics of Science
BIS 300 - Interdisciplinary Inquiry
BIS 490 - Utopian Dreams and the Back to the Land Movement
BISSTS 307 -  Science, Technology, and Society


At its core, my research examines the complex relationships between nature, culture, and power.  These interests are rooted in a deep commitment to interdisciplinary study and engaged scholarship, as well as extensive fieldwork within environmental and health justice communities.  As both teacher and scholar, my work depends upon thoughtful integration of the social and natural sciences—drawing from fields as diverse as hydrology, cultural studies, and environmental policy.  I believe that academic scholarship must take seriously both the utility of scientific knowledge as well as the historically and politically situated nature of its content, understanding networks of power and politics as defining features of social and scientific change.

My current book project, Unmaking the Bomb: Nuclear Cleanup and the Politics of Impossibility, explores the complex politics of waste, illness, and remediation at Washington State's Hanford Nuclear Reservation.  The most contaminated nuclear site in the nation, Hanford is engaged in the largest environmental cleanup in human history—legally required to implement protective measures that will remain effective for 10,000 years.  Informed by more than a decade of ethnographic work, this project explores how nuclear remediation is made possible despite its inherent uncertainties.  I make the case that nuclear waste is not socially inert, but distinctly productive.  Just as above-ground weapons testing produced the official script for American nuclear disaster with its televised detonations and duck-and-cover drills, I argue that the contemporary spectacle of remediation works to re-define the terms of nuclear citizenship and national security in the face of the nation’s enduring waste.  Thus, cleanup projects at former weapons sites like Hanford articulate a new social contract for nuclear threat in the post-Cold War era—one that defines the conditions of “livable” exposure and “acceptable” contamination, highlighting particular hazards while rendering others invisible.

My engagement with issues of science, health, and the environment also extends beyond the academy.  I currently represent the community group Citizens for a Clean Eastern Washington on the Hanford Advisory Board—a multi-stakeholder body that develops policy advice and recommendations for the U.S. Department of Energy. 

Selected Publications

Cram, Shannon.  2016.  "Living in Dose: Nuclear Work and the Politics of Permissible Exposure" Public Culture 28 (3 80): 519-539.

Cram, Shannon. 2015. "Wild and Scenic Wasteland: Conservation Politics in the Nuclear Wilderness" Environmental Humanities 7: 89-105.

Cram, Shannon.  2015. "Becoming Jane: The Making and Unmaking of Hanford's Nuclear Body"  Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 33 (5): 796-812.

Cram, Shannon.  2010.  "Escaping S-102: Waste, Illness, and the Politics of Not Knowing" International Journal of Science in Society  2(1): 243-252.