Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Melinda Herrold-Menzies

Reader 2

Susan Phillips

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© 2023 Izzy H Dean


This thesis arose from a particular fascination and frustration with the prescribed nuclear family unit and the competitive isolation that capitalism breeds within normative communities, particularly in the United States. In this paper, I use the approach of theoretical exploration combined with case study research to explore the role of community and kinship within grassroots environmental justice organizations. I initially wanted to explore examples of people and groups who found strength and resistance by engaging in “non-normative” or “queer” community-building practices. I have since redefined my topic as a broad theoretical exploration in which I cite theories of non-normativity, among many others. I use critical race theory, Black feminist theory, queer theory, and theories of expansive kinship, among others, to assert the importance of community building and collective action, based on expansive care networks and equitability. By analyzing several grassroots environmental justice organizations in the Philadelphia area, I assert the relevance of kinship practices and relationality in social justice activism, as well as communal resistance and resilience. This is a project of theory building, in which I conceptualize a kind of movement building that is non-patriarchal and non-hierarchical. Instead, what I am exploring is a basis for community relations predicated on mutuality, love, and collective concern rather than profit or power.