The socio-environmental traumas in the U.S. Southwest, with roots in colonial times, are better addressed and understood from multidisciplinary approaches that consider as many dimensions of this complex history as possible. In a disciplinary work that combines ecocriticism, political ecology and decolonial theories I analyze different aspects of Chicano culture interlinked with the environmental degradation of the U.S. Southwest. My current project explores dystopian fictional narratives around utopian desert Venice cities and arcologies (self-contained, self-sufficient buildings) in the arid U.S. Southwest.
The Southwest could be regarded as an undisciplined environment in itself, forcing U.S. environmentalists to get over the color green while some of the population faces a drought by painting the grass of their front yards into that same color. The struggles over water rights portrayed in the novel Alburquerque (1992), by the renown Chicano author Rudolfo Anaya, become very real when one reads the posts and news about the Santolina sprawl development currently proposed for Albuquerque’s West side. In the same line, a lush sprawl development called “Venice” is proposed in Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead (1991), while Paolo Bacigalupi’s last novel, The Water Knife (2014) presents arcologies as an option to scape 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 become then central issues to consider.
A nuanced analysis of these dystopian narratives brings into question current decision making around water management in the Southwest through the decolonial perspectives of the 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 over the region, novels such as these become all the more relevant when proposing alternative futures.
International Conference of the European Network of Political Ecology (ENTITLE): Undisciplined Environments. KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, March 20-24, 2016