A QUEST FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SOVEREIGNTY Chicana/o Literary Experiences of Water (Mis)Management and Environmental Degradation in the US Southwest

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: 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.

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