Fri., Apr. 22, 12:30-2:00pm. Dana Powell (Anthropology, Appalachian State University), “Unsettling places: toxic uncertainty, environmental justice, and the future of energy in the Navajo Nation.” HOD (Human and Organizational Development) Colloquium. Mayborn 105. (12:15 pizza)
A strong discourse of environmental risk and contamination shapes contemporary environmental politics in the Dine (Navajo) Nation in the American Southwest. Navajo sovereignty has been forged through intensive energy development for nearly a century, from 1920s oil exploration to mid-century uranium mining for the U.S. Cold War nuclear arsenal, and from 1960s coal-fired power plants to present-day hydraulic fracturing operations. The uncertainty and lived sense of risk generated by these toxic legacies shifted into direct action in the late 20th century, as a vibrant environmental justice movement emerged on the Nation, identifying the energy-water nexus as the key arena of struggle for the future. Increasingly, Dine citizens reject their role as a resource colony for the production of the urban Southwest, articulating this injustice as part of the ongoing conditions of settler colonialism. However, just when a new, civil society environmentalism seemed to be taking hold, the possibility of a more robust political autonomy for the Nation posed a foundational challenge to a politics of nature that seemed to shun environmental development. This talk explores how ethnography, engaged scholarship, and attention to visual culture contribute to a more critical and nuanced understanding of matters at stake for Dine people and others in the Colorado Plateau, as they work to forget a new future for energy development in the context of global climate change, social movements action, and a fledgling tribal energy policy.