Creating Green Chemistry: Discursive Strategies of a Scientific Movement

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Virginia Tech


In this dissertation, I examine the evolution of the green chemistry movement from its inception in the early 1990s to the present day. I focus my study on the discursive strategies employed by leaders of the movement to establish green chemistry and to develop and institute changes in the practice of the chemical sciences. The study looks specifically at three different strategies. The first is the construction of a historical narrative. This history comes from the intersection of the chemical sciences with environmentalism in the United States retold to place chemistry in a central position for understanding global environmental health issues and green chemistry as the natural response to these problems. The second involves the attempts made to develop a concrete definition for green chemistry as well as a set of guiding principles for the practice of this alternative form of chemistry. The establishment of the definition and the principles, I argue, constitutes an important move in constituting the field as a very specific interdisciplinary group with a forged identity and the beginnings of a system for determining what properly "counts" as green chemistry. The third comes from the intersection of this history within the defining principles of the movement intersect to create a specific set of green chemistry practices, and how these practices manifest themselves in conference and pedagogical settings. Finally, I offer an overview of where the movement currently stands, offering a critical perspective on the future potential of the field. I argue that recent episodes indicate that the movement has not succeeded in accomplishing what it set out to do, and will continue to encounter problems unless a refashioning of the movement takes place. To offer perspective on green chemistry as a movement, I examine it through the lens of other (e.g., Frickel and Gross 2005) attempts to explore scientific movements as a special class of social movements.



Disciplining, Discursive Strategies, Chemistry Studies, Scientific Movements, Green Chemistry