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A QUEST FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SOVEREIGNTY: Chicana/o Literary Experiences of Water (Mis)Management and Environmental Degradation in the US Southwest
Philosophy and History, KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, History of Science, Technology and Environment. (GIECO-Instituto Franklin)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3532-5062
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The U.S. Southwest is a semi-arid region affected by numerous environmental problems. Chicana/o communities have been directly affected by such problems, especially ever since the region was annexed from Mexico by the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. From this moment onwards they lost their environmental sovereignty, mostly through their dispossession of the natural resources.

 

This environmental humanities dissertation focuses on the ethics, politics, and practices around water (management), for water is a key natural resource and a central element of Chicana/o cultural identity. It explores the ways in which Chicana/o culture is interconnected with environmental practices and sites in subaltern literary works about the Chicana/o experience. It investigates how the hegemonic Anglo-American environmental, political, and economic practices have challenged and undermined Chicana/o culture, identity, and wellbeing, and how this has been addressed in fiction; and it questions whether establishing such a connection adds any useful insights to the larger discussion on the global socio-environmental crisis. This dissertation also analyzes the writer activist character of the subaltern narratives of the corpus, with attention to the relevance of rhetoric in subverting and constructing environmental discourses and ethics.

 

By examining regional and border narratives, as well as fiction and non-fiction narratives about the socio-environmental struggles of other ethnic minorities in the Southwest and in other parts of the world, this dissertation puts literature about the Chicana/o experience in a regional, national, and transnational context. It moreover explores the pivotal role of literature in reclaiming environmental sovereignty, in asserting cultural identities, and in countering the environmental crisis by imagining alternative managerial practices and socio-environmental relations, as much as in challenging cultural hegemonies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2017. , p. 183
Series
TRITA-HOT, ISSN 0349-2842 ; 2073
Keywords [en]
Environmental humanities, ecocriticism, environmental history, comparative literature, U.S. Southwest, Chicana/o, subaltern literature, environmental justice, water, political ecology, postcoloniality, decoloniality.
Keywords [sv]
Miljöhumaniora, ekokritik, miljöhistoria, litteraturhistoria, sydvästra USA, Chicana/o, subaltern litteratur, miljörättvisa, vatten, politisk ekologi, postkolonialitet, dekolonialitet.
National Category
History of Technology
Research subject
History of Science, Technology and Environment
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-206580ISBN: 978-91-7729-386-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-206580DiVA, id: diva2:1093415
Public defence
2017-06-02, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, våningsplan 2, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20170508

Available from: 2017-05-08 Created: 2017-05-05 Last updated: 2017-05-08Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The Water Apocalypse: Utopian Desert Venice Cities and Arcologies in Southwestern Dystopian Fiction
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Water Apocalypse: Utopian Desert Venice Cities and Arcologies in Southwestern Dystopian Fiction
2016 (English)In: Ecozona, ISSN 2171-9594, E-ISSN 2171-9594, Vol. 7, no 2, p. 44-64Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Numerous stories have and are being written in both fiction and non-fiction about the future of the United States’ Southwest; and nearly always that future is considered to be closely linked to the vicissitudes of water. In a multidisciplinary work that combines ecocriticism, environmental history, and decolonial theories, this paper analyzes the socio-technological complexities behind water (mis)management in the Southwest with a focus on urban environments, and their socio-environmental consequences.

A lush sprawl development called ‘Venice’ is proposed in Arizona in Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead (1991). In the same line, Chicano author Rudolfo Anaya presents struggles over water rights and plans for turning Albuquerque into a ‘desert Venice’ city in his novel Alburquerque (1992). Fictional plans like these become very real when one reads the posts and news about the water-demanding Santolina sprawl development currently proposed for Albuquerque’s West side. On another note, Paolo Bacigalupi’s last novel, The Water Knife (2015) presents arcologies (self-contained, self-sufficient buildings) as an option to escape what he perceives will be a hellish region when climate change worsens and water underground levels are eventually depleted. Migration, xenophobia and environmental re-adaptation then become central issues to consider. A nuanced decolonial analysis of these dystopian narratives calls into question current decision-making around water management in the Southwest through the perspectives of these authors. If one argues that the environmental degradation of the arid Southwest is partly a consequence of the cultural oppression of the native local inhabitants, by imposing an inappropriate socio-environmental culture and ethics over the region, dystopian novels such as these become all the more relevant when proposing alternative futures.

Abstract [es]

Numerosas historias se han escrito, y se continúan escribiendo tanto en crítica como en literatura, acerca del futuro del Suroeste de Estados Unidos, y prácticamente siempre dicho futuro va mano a mano con las vicisitudes del agua. En un trabajo multidisciplinar que combina la ecocrítica, la historia medioambiental y teorías decoloniales, este artículo analiza las complejidades socio-tecnológicas que se encuentran tras la (mala) gestión del agua del Suroeste con especial atención a contextos urbanos, y sus consecuencias socio-medioambientales.

Leslie Marmon Silko, en su obra The Almanac of the Dead (1991), presenta los planes para construir en Arizona una lujosa urbanización llena de fuentes y lagunas llamada ‘Venecia’. De forma similar la novela Alburquerque (1992), escrita por el célebre escritor chicano Rudolfo Anaya, presenta los esfuerzos de un candidato a la alcaldía por conseguir los derechos sobre el agua de la zona y sus planes para convertir la ciudad en una ‘Venecia del desierto’. Dichos planes provenientes de la ficción resultan particularmente creíbles cuando una lee las noticias sobre la urbanización Santolina, propuesta al oeste de la ciudad de Albuquerque. Por otra parte, la novela The Water Knife (2015), de Paolo Bacigalupi, presenta arcologías (edificios autosuficientes) como una posible opción para escapar de lo que prevé será una región infernal, una vez se agoten los acuíferos naturales y empeoren las inclemencias derivadas del cambio climático. La emigración, la xenofobia y la readaptación medioambiental se convertirán entonces en temas clave. Al analizar estas narrativas de ficción a través de una lente decolonial se cuestiona la actual gestión del agua en el Suroeste. Estas novelas distópicas resultan centrales a la hora de proponer futuros alternativos si se argumenta que la degradación medioambiental del Suroeste se debe en gran medida a la opresión cultural sufrida por los habitantes locales y nativos, al imponerles una cultural y una ética socio-medioambiental inadecuada.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Universidad de Alcalá: , 2016
Keywords
water, management, arcologies, desert Venice, dystopia, ethics, agua, gestión, arcologías, Venecia del desierto, distopía, ética
National Category
Specific Literatures
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-195164 (URN)
Note

QC 20161102

Available from: 2016-11-02 Created: 2016-11-02 Last updated: 2017-11-29Bibliographically approved
2. Progress and Development According to Whom?: Reflections from the margins
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Progress and Development According to Whom?: Reflections from the margins
2016 (English)In: Transatlantic Landscapes : Environmental Awareness, Literature and the Arts / [ed] José Manuel Marrero Henríquez, Alcalá de Henares: Instituto Franklin-UAH , 2016, p. 95-111Chapter in book (Refereed)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Alcalá de Henares: Instituto Franklin-UAH, 2016
Keywords
Progress, (mal)development, unequal exchange, technospeak
National Category
Specific Literatures
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-203128 (URN)978-84-16978-05-2 (ISBN)
Note

QC 20170314

Available from: 2017-03-13 Created: 2017-03-13 Last updated: 2017-05-05Bibliographically approved
3. Lands of Entrapment: Environmental Health and wellbeing in literature about the U.S. Southwest and Chicano Communities
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Lands of Entrapment: Environmental Health and wellbeing in literature about the U.S. Southwest and Chicano Communities
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Through a broad overview of Southwestern literature this paper analyzes the environmental degradation of the United States Southwest and its connection to the health and wellbeing of Chicano communities (also addressing their Mexican and Pueblo neighbors). It does so in two steps. First, it analyzes toxic narratives about agricultural and industrial areas from the perspective of (mental and somatic) "toxic trauma;" second, it explicates the connection between the loss of land grants and water rights, environmental degradation, poverty, unemployment, and substance abuse in New Mexico. The analysis draws from Priscilla Ybarra’s “goodlife writing,” Maria Herrera-Sobek’s “aesthetic activism,” Linda Margarita Greenberg’s “pedagogies of crucifixion,” and Jake Kosek’s “politics of memory and longing;” as well as from Sylvia Rodríguez’ work on acequias and Joni Adamson’s work on environmental justice, with references to Stacy Alaimo’s theory of trans-corporeality.

The narratives―Heroes and Saints, Under the Feet of Jesus, Cactus Blood, So Far From God, El Puente/The Bridge, People of the Valley, The Milagro Beanfield War, and Alburquerque―echo the work of many activists and associations across the Southwest struggling for environmental justice. Their focus on water, in line with the popular motto “el agua es vida/water is life,” moreover parallels the current opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Through "good life’ values these narratives, while proposing means of resistance and/or viable alternatives, expose how the environmental health issues affecting the wellbeing of both the land and the peoples of the Southwest are an entanglement of social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental factors.

Keywords
Environmental Health, Chicana/o literature, U.S. Southwest, toxic trauma, wellbeing, goodlife
National Category
Specific Literatures
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-206792 (URN)
Note

QC 20170508

Available from: 2017-05-08 Created: 2017-05-08 Last updated: 2017-05-08Bibliographically approved
4. “Dam a River, Damn a People?”: Subverting dams in/through subaltern narratives
Open this publication in new window or tab >>“Dam a River, Damn a People?”: Subverting dams in/through subaltern narratives
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper analyzes how the symbolism of dams as material representations of Nation and Progress can be subverted through literary tropes. We show how, in a set of subaltern narratives, dams instead come to represent environmental degradation and cultural disintegration resulting from the slow violence brought about by the imposition of these infrastructures. The narratives, all examples of writer activism, portray “invisibilized” ethnic minorities―or “unimagined communities”―resisting real and fictional dam projects in several different locations around the world: the U.S. Southwest, the U.S. Northeast/Canada’s Southeast, northern Sweden, and western India.

Keywords
dams, literary tropes, writer activism, subaltern narratives, slow violence, invisibilized communities.
National Category
Specific Literatures
Research subject
History of Science, Technology and Environment
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-206800 (URN)
Note

QC 20170508

Available from: 2017-05-08 Created: 2017-05-08 Last updated: 2017-05-08Bibliographically approved

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