Organizing Fictions: Material Ecocriticism, Environmental Justice, and American Indian Literature
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This dissertation considers how environmental humanities, in dialogue with Native studies, can enhance scholarship concerned with environmental justice. Maintaining a critical interest in how materiality--as conceived within material ecocriticism and American Indian relational ontologies--plays into these discourses, the dissertation examines representations of land, water, and community in late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century American Indian literature, in order to inform a deeper understanding of contemporary environmental and indigenous movements. Chapter one introduces the project's theoretical framework and diffractive methodology. The following three chapters, grouped under the presiding images of land, water, and community, examine a range of cultural and literary texts involving environmental justice organizing and activism. Chapter two argues for the liveliness of borders and demarcations of place in the reservation landscapes of novels by Louise Erdrich and Winona LaDuke. Chapter three investigates the discourse of environmental resources, focusing on recent mining projects and water activism in the Upper Midwest and reading online activist websites, the poetry of Cecelia Rose LaPointe, and Linda Hogan's novel Solar Storms. Chapter four analyzes how the rhetoric of prophecy influences coalitional activism in the work of Leslie Marmon Silko and in the recent indigenous movement Idle No More. The conclusion argues for the evolution of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) discourse using the work of Robin Wall Kimmerer. The dissertation's title plays on the term "organizing fictions" to refer both to the ontological underpinnings that influence identities and to the fiction and literature that inspires environmental activism.