War by Other Means: Environmental Violence in the 21st Century
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This dissertation studies the intersections of militarism, climate change, and environmental justice in U.S. literature and popular culture since the end of the Cold War. The project identifies different mechanisms enacting environmental military violence through discursive analysis of literary and cultural texts, and considers the ideas, values, and beliefs that support environmental military violence. In each chapter I trace a different dynamic of environmental violence structured through the logics of U.S. counterinsurgency theory by examining what I call “narrative political ecologies”—cultural texts that center concerns of ecology and broadly defined political economy. Chapter I establishes the stakes and questions of the dissertation. The next two chapters investigate the dynamics of environmental violence depicted within narrative political ecologies. Chapter II investigates how eruptive interpersonal violence secures more insidious, hidden forms of slow environmental violence in Héctor Tobar’s The Tattooed Soldier. Chapter III considers the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands and the environmental military violence responsible for the deaths of undocumented migrants by examining Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Devil’s Highway and the Electronic Disturbance Theater’s Transborder Immigrant Tool. Chapter IV turns to potential f wars and conflicts that may be caused by climate change as they have been depicted in speculative fiction. In novels depicting climate migrants, such as Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (2014), I show that even politically progressive, intersectional approaches to environmental endangerment naturalize conflict and occlude dialogic solutions to environmental change. The final chapter traces how the environmental refugee has become a paradigmatic figure in climate change discourse, particularly the aspects of this discourse where issues of national security are articulated. At the center of these texts is the figure of the migrant and narratives of migrations, and I argue that the figure of the environmental migrant offers a privileged vantage on the constitutive forces of the Anthropocene. The dissertation identifies the specific literary and rhetorical techniques that authors use to contest environmental militarization and expand the U.S. public’s capacity to creatively and compassionately reason around increased flows of environmental migrants— issues of vital importance for humane climate change adaptation.