Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Dr. Shannon Elizabeth Bell

Abstract

In this thesis, I examine how claims regarding the environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” are constructed by industry advocates who promote the practice and environmental and social justice groups who reject it. More specifically, I examine the cultural underpinnings of the debate over fracking, and the prominence of gender as a central framing device in that debate. While the controversy over fracking is often presented as scientific or technical in nature, I maintain that it is as much a culture war as it is a science war. I demonstrate this by showing how both pro-fracking and anti-fracking groups mobilize cultural symbols and identities—motherhood, environmentalism, family farming, family values, individualism, and patriotism among them—in order to persuade the public and advocate for their positions. I contend that engagement with the cultural and ideological dimensions of those debates, including their gendered dimensions, is as important as engagement with its scientific and technical dimensions. Ultimately, I argue that a greater focus on gender contributes to our understanding of environmental risk more broadly, and to the field of environmental sociology as a whole. As such, gender deserves more scholarly attention within the field than it is currently receiving.