Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins: Waste and Contamination in Contemporary U.S. Ethnic Literatures

Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins: Waste and Contamination in Contemporary U.S. Ethnic Literatures

Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins: Waste and Contamination in Contemporary U.S. Ethnic Literatures

Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins: Waste and Contamination in Contemporary U.S. Ethnic Literatures

Synopsis

In this innovative study, Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins, John Blair Gamber examines urbanity and the results of urban living-traffic, garbage, sewage, waste, and pollution, arguing for a new recognition of all forms of human detritus as part of the natural world and thus for a broadening of our understanding of environmental literature. While much of the discourse surrounding the United States' idealistic and nostalgic views of itself privileges "clean" living (primarily in rural, small-town, and suburban settings), representations of rurality and urbanity by Chicanas/Chicanos, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, on the other hand, complicate such generalization. Gamber widens our understanding of current ecocritical debates by examining texts by such authors as Octavia Butler, Louise Erdrich, Alejandro Morales, Gerald Vizenor, and Karen Tei Yamashita that draw on the physical signs of human corporeality to refigure cities and urbanity as natural. He demonstrates how ethnic American literature reclaims waste objects and waste spaces-likening pollution to miscegenation-as a method to revalue cast-off and marginalized individuals and communities. Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins explores the conjunction of, and the frictions between, the studies of twentieth-century United States postcolonial studies, race studies, urban studies, and ecocriticism, and works to refigure this portrayal of urban spaces.

Excerpt

Go against nature,
It’s part of nature, too.
LOVE AND ROCKETS, “No New Tale to Tell”

I love trash!
OSCAR THE GROUCH

Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins begins with the simple assumption that people are natural. I’m not the first person to suggest such a thing, as the Love and Rockets quote I use here as an epigraph indicates; but I hope this book will push some people’s ideas about what is and is not, what can or cannot be considered “natural” in some new directions. Plants and trees are natural, of course. The flowers and the birds are natural. Apes and dolphins. Maggots. Viruses. People. Cities are natural. And traffic. And garbage. So are sewage and toxic waste. Human beings (Homo sapiens) are a biological species of the earth. We have evolved within a matrix (or rather, within infinite matrices) of forces, coevolved with innumerable (or at least innumerated) species, and continue to exist within biological, geological, physical, and ecological systems. Like other species, we are socialized. Like many other species, we construct dwellings for ourselves. Like some other species, we use tools. We are born, we breathe, we eat, we expel, we die. We’re animals. We’re natural. Moreover, as I hope to demonstrate, the impulse to distinguish humans from other life on the planet is dangerous to all life. As Cary Wolfe demonstrates, “Debates in the humanities and social sciences between well-intentioned critics of racism, (hetero)sexism, classism, and all other -isms that are the stock-in-trade of cultural studies almost always . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.