In a globalized world ruled by neoliberal rationale, some ethnic minorities still have their own ways of understanding, and writing, the environment. These perspectives have often been influenced by the discrimination that has derived from geopolitical conflicts in general and the actions of transnational corporations in particular, aiming at exploiting the natural resources of the world at whatever (social and environmental) cost.
Activists such as Arundhati Roy, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and Nobel Prize recipient Wangari Maathai, among others, have given (written) voice to the concerns of repressed peoples and environments around the globe. Narration is a common method to frame the world and many writers have also used fiction as a way to approach these situations. Native American writer Linda Hogan and her novels Mean Spirit and Solar Storms could be used as examples of this kind of literature in North America, my area of study.
I intend to apply Rob Nixon’s concept of ‘slow violence’, Ramachandra Guha and Joan Martínez-Alier’s theory of ‘environmentalism of the poor’ and Vandana Shiva’s term of ‘maldevelopment’ to the analysis of several examples of intersectional environmentalism expressed through narratives around the globe: some of these examples will be drawn from Rob Nixon’s book Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, some others will be particular cases compiled for this analysis.
Patterns will be drawn in terms of the shared characteristics of both the affected populations and the altered sites/environments, and the geopolitics behind resource extraction and the nation-states’ attitudes towards these situations and their consequences. These commonalities will then be compared to the environmental struggle(s) carried out by some of the local inhabitants of the U.S. Southwest, the Chicanos. This will allow, not only to perceive the struggle of the Chicanos in a global perspective, but also to pinpoint the specificities of their particular situation, as well as the role of literature as a method to combat both cultural and environmental degradation.
Chicanos form a mix-blood community with Native American, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo roots, and are a growing ‘ethnic’ minority in the United States. Moreover, Chicanos’ discourse offers an alternative standpoint of a popularly represented landscape, that of the area misleadingly identified as the ‘Wild West’. Through the analysis of some literary works and their (potential) activist nature, the way in which Chicanos frame the environment they inhabit at the same time that they challenge the existing popular conceptions about it, will present yet another perspective of how a threatened cultural/ethnic group faces environmental degradation through narrative.
This study will not only delve into the complexities of Chicanos’ cultural and environmental struggles, but also address questions such as: how does an ethnic minority fight environmental degradation from within one of the most powerful nations through narrative? And also, how do these narratives integrate the specificities of the socio-environmental struggle, at the same time that they overcome them, therefore fitting a global pattern?
2014. 167-168 p.
Chicanos, U.S. Southwest, Writer activism, Slow violence, Environmental justice
EASLCE/NIES conference Framing Nature: Signs, Stories, and Ecologies of Meaning, held at the University of Tartu, Estonia, April 29- May 03, 2014.