Maricarmen Hernández is a scholar of daily life in toxic places. Her work investigates the sociopolitical production of environmental inequalities as reflected in the uneven distribution of environmental harms and privileges. Focusing on daily practices of placemaking and interpretations of risk, she studies the processes that confine communities to hazardous living spaces. Using primarily ethnographic, qualitative, and archival methods, her main areas of research are environmental inequality, urban marginality, political sociology, and studies of Latin America and Latinx communities. Her current research project is an ethnography of contaminated informal neighborhoods in the majority Afrodescendent city of Esmeraldas, Ecuador. This book project documents how a community living a few meters from the largest refinery in Ecuador, has chosen to stay in place and strengthen their ties to the neighborhood instead of organizing to find a safer place to live. This project highlights that the growing number of people living under informal conditions in Latin American cities do not have access to clean and healthy living spaces and are more likely to be disproportionately exposed to toxicity.
Maricarmen is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Urban Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University. Prior to joining Barnard, she was Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of New Mexico. She has also held visiting positions at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO)- Quito and the Universidad Luis Vargas Torres- Esmeraldas.
She has taught courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including Urban Environmental Justice, Environmental Sociology, Political Sociology, and Qualitative Methods. Besides her work in Ecuador, she has also conducted research in the El Paso/Ciudad Juárez border region, the Rio Grande Valley, and North Texas. Her work has been supported by Fulbright, National Science Foundation, American Association of University Women, Tinker Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies.