Matt Henry PhD Defense: "Hydronarratives: Water and Environmental Justice in US, Canadian, and Pakistani Literature and Cultural Representations"

Committee: Joni Adamson and Claudia Sadowski-Smith, Co-Chairs, Ron Broglio. ::  ABSTRACT: This dissertation examines a growing body of literary and cultural representations that attend to the environmental and socio-economic dynamics of contemporary water crises. These "hydronarratives" – work generated by writers, artists, and filmmakers in the United States, Canada, and South Asia, stress the historical centrality of water to colonialism and capitalism. Each hydronarrative articulates a politics of resilience and resistance against justifications for dam construction, river diversion, extraction-related water contamination, and the inequitable distribution of flood mitigation infrastructure in coastal communities threatened by sea level rise. The humanities have long explored connections between human and ecosystemic well-being and connected the uneven distribution of environmental risk to exploitative social systems. Taking an interdisciplinary environmental humanities approach, this dissertation draws on indigenous studies, settler- and postcolonial studies, energy studies, environmental history, and economic theory. In doing so, it seeks to establish a productive convergence between environmental justice studies and what might be termed "Anthropocene studies" to move beyond narratives that describe the human species as a universalized, undifferentiated whole equally responsible for, and vulnerable to, global environmental change.

In its exploration of cultural representations of resource extraction and the connections between human and ecosystemic well-being, this dissertation contributes to and seeks to advance ongoing conversations in the environmental humanities; contemporary US and postcolonial literary and cultural studies; the energy humanities; and environmental justice studies. It also makes clear the critical role of the humanities in envisioning and implementing solutions-oriented, collaborative, and community-based efforts to equitably meet the challenges of a rapidly changing planet.

Sheila Luna
Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, 9:30 a.m.
Ross-Blakley Hall (RBHL)
Tempe campus