The Poetics of Settler Fatalism: Responses to Ecocide from within the Anthropocene
AbstractIt is impossible to think today, without thinking of the Anthropocene. As biospheres are pushed ever-closer towards exhaustion, collapse, and/or radically inhospitable transmutations, there is a simultaneous explosion of work striving to represent and understand this epoch. However, the Anthropocene should not be thought in isolation from other social, political, and ecological processes. In this paper, I investigate the Anthropocene’s intersection with settler colonialism. Of particular interest to this paper are the metaphorical and narrative accounts about wastelanded spaces; that is, how meaning is ascribed to the local manifests of the Anthropocene as they are birthed on colonized territories. I ask what sort of futurities or recuperations are imagined as extant within the Anthropocene; in particular, whether possibilities for anti-colonial futures are imagined as existing within or emerging from wastelanded spaces.
I investigate Richard-Yves Sitoski’s (settler) brownfields. In this intensely located book of poetry—which Sitoski describes as a “poetic ‘autogeography” of Owen Sound”—identifying the presence of what I call settler fatalism in the face of the Anthropocene and its attendant brownfields. I suggest this fatalism is brought about by a melancholic attachment to the processes of wastelanding that are endemic to settler colonization. The final section of this paper contrasts the settler fatalism of Sitoski with the still ambivalent, though more generative poetry of Liz Howard (Ashinaabek). I suggest that Howard’s Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent approaches the Anthropocene not as a terminal epoch, but as what Donna Haraway calls “a boundary event”.
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