Shannon Cram

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


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, technology, 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, biomedical practice, standardization, genetic marketing, surveillance, algorithmic ethics, artificial intelligence, big data, and nuclear waste.  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 115 - Digital Cultures
BIS 245 - Environmental Humanities
BIS 293 - The Politics of Science
BIS 300 - Interdisciplinary Inquiry
BIS 355 - History of Science and Technology
BIS 490 - Utopian Dreams and the Back to the Land Movement
BISSTS 307 -  Science, Technology, and Society


At its heart, my research examines complex relations between nature, science, and power.  I am interested in what it means to reckon with an increasingly contaminated world and how particular ways of knowing and regulating toxic materials condition our very definitions for health, safety, and security in the United States.  My scholarly work explores the embodied politics of toxicity, contributing to interdisciplinary conversations about waste and wasting with a particular attention to the co-production of science and social life.  This concern with how power circulates in and through understandings of science, environment, and body is central to my teaching and scholarship.

My current book project, Unmaking the Bomb: Environmental Cleanup and the Politics of Impossibility, explores the entangled challenges of waste, illness, and remediation at Washington State’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Home to more than two-thirds of the nation’s high-level nuclear waste and its largest environmental cleanup, Hanford is tasked with managing toxic materials that will long outlast the United States and its regulatory policies. Unmaking the Bomb uses a critical ethnographic approach to examine the embodied uncertainties and structural impossibilities integral to that effort.

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

Selected Publications

Cram, Shannon.  2020.  "A Good Day to Die" River Teeth (Beautiful Things)

Cram, Shannon.  2019.  "Mastectomy: Instructions Before Surgery" Fugue (Issue 56).

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.