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What Im Reading-Diane Sicotte

January 18, 2013

Diane Sicotte

Drexel’s Dr. Diane Sicotte, an associate professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences, is researching environmental inequality in the Philadelphia region, and is working on a book regarding her research. She’s extremely busy, but that doesn’t stop her from making time to read—especially when it helps in her research.

Sicotte is currently reading Nature’s Entrepôt: Philadelphia's Urban Sphere and Its Environmental Thresholds, edited by Brian C. Black and Michael J. Chiarappa. The book focuses on the planning, expansion and sustainability of Philadelphia and contains chapters contributed to by various academics including Sicotte herself.

Why did you choose this book and what is it about?

Well, this book is kind of central to the work I am doing now, because I am reading a lot of environmental history. I was excited about it because it was the first book chapter that I had written. But what I really wanted was to read everyone else’s chapters —there are chapters from really interesting historians. There is a chapter by Carolyn Adams, who is a professor at Temple and researches all of the old industrial towns around Philadelphia. And there is another really fascinating chapter by a historian named Thomas Apel who wrote about the Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia and what caused it.

What is it about this book/topic that you find important or enjoyable?

I love Philadelphia’s history. But one of the things that I think is neglected about this city is its industrial and environmental history. I think environmental history is new to historians just like environmental sociology is fairly new to sociologists. Philadelphia, in particular, is a town that neglects its industrial history because it’s sort of hidden —you have to dig further for it. And to me that makes it all the more fascinating because it is connected with so many other really interesting things about Philadelphia.

If you go to the library and you look in Philadelphia’s history you’ll see 50 different books about the colonial days and Benjamin Franklin but you won’t find any books about pollution or the industrial revolution or even the environmental history of the city. I’m finding that’s because it’s so huge and diverse it spans such a long period of time that it is very difficult to write about. With this book, the authors have done a good job of pulling together certain aspects of that environmental history.

So far, has the book lived up to your expectations?

Actually, I think it has pretty much exceeded my expectations. I would’ve been interested in just about any book on Philadelphia’s environmental history. But this one was very useful to my work as well, so, I’m not just reading it because I am interested or I have a chapter. I’m reading it because I’m actually finding some things out that I didn’t know before.

Is there a passage or a quote you find particularly interesting?

"The pattern on the map makes it clear how the region's two main rivers, the Delaware and the Schuylkill, shaped the locations of industrial districts in the 19th century. Even at the time of the American Revolution, the river banks of southeastern Pennsylvania were already dotted with small-scale manufacturers who operated paper mills, flour mills, textile mills, and iron works."