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Article

Betsy Dahms

Born in the lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa (1942–2004) was a prolific writer, scholar, and activist. Her corpus of work includes essays, books, edited volumes, children’s literature, and fiction/autohistorias. Anzaldúa’s life and writing are at the forefront of critical theory as it interacts with feminism, Latinx literature, spirituality, spiritual activism, queer theory, and expansive ideas of queerness and articulations of alternative, non-Western epistemologies and ontologies. The geographical proximity to the US–Mexican border figures prominently throughout in her work, as does her theorization of metaphorical borderlands and liminal spaces. Her oft-cited text Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza is included in many university courses’ reading lists for its contributions to discourses of hybridity, linguistics, intersectionality, and women of color feminism, among others. Anzaldúa began work on her more well-known theories prior to the publication of Borderlands/La Frontera and continued to develop these theories in her post-Borderlands/La Frontera writing, both published and unpublished. After her sudden death due to complications of diabetes in 2004, Anzaldúa’s literary estate was housed in the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas, Austin in 2005.

Article

Postcolonialism, decoloniality, and epistemologies of the South (ES) are three main ways of critically approaching the consequences of European colonialism in contemporary social, political, and cultural ways of thinking and acting. They converge in highlighting the unmeasurable sacrifice of human life; the expropriation of cultural and natural wealth; and the destruction, by suppressing, silencing, proscribing, or disfiguring, of non-European cultures and ways of knowing. The differences among them stem in part from the temporal and geographical contexts in which they emerged. Postcolonial studies emerged in the 1960s in the aftermath of the political independence of European colonies in Asia and Africa. They focused mainly on the economic, political, and cultural consequences of decolonization, highlighting the postindependence forms of economic dependence, political subordination, and cultural subalternization. They argue that while historical colonialism had ended (territorial occupation and ruling by a foreign country), colonialism continued under different guises. Decolonial studies emerged in the 1990s in Latin America. Since the political independence of the Latin American countries took place in the early 19th century, these analytical currents assumed that colonialism was over, but it had in fact been followed by coloniality, a global pattern of social interaction that inherited all the social and cultural corrosiveness of colonialism. Coloniality is conceived of as an all-encompassing racial understanding of social reality that permeates all realms of economic, social, political, and cultural life. Coloniality is the idea that whatever differs from the Eurocentric worldview is inferior, marginal, irrelevant, or dangerous. The ES, formulated in the 2000s, aim at naming and highlighting ancient and contemporary knowledges held by social groups as they resisted against modern Eurocentric domination. They conceive of modern science as a valid (and precious) type of knowledge but not as the only valid (and precious) type of knowledge; they insist on the possibility of interknowledge and intercultural translation. ES share with postcolonialism the idea that colonialism is not over. However, they insist that modern domination is constituted not only by colonialism but also by capitalism and patriarchy. Like decolonial studies, the ES denounce the cognitive and ontological destruction caused by coloniality, but they focus on the positiveness and creativity that emerge from knowledges born in struggle and on how they translate themselves into alternative ways of knowing and practicing self-determination.

Article

Cheryl Lousley

Ecocriticism describes and confronts the socially uneven encounters and entanglements of earthly living. As a political mode of literary and cultural analysis, it aims to understand and intervene in the destruction and diminishment of living worlds. A core premise is that environmental crises have social, cultural, affective, imaginative, and material dimensions. Although ranging in its critical engagements across historical periods, cultural texts, and cultural formations, ecocriticism focuses on the aesthetic modes, social meanings, contexts, genealogies, and counterpoints of cultural practices that contribute to ecological ruination and resilience. These include myths about frontiers, progress, and human mastery over animality and nature; capitalist modes of valuing, devaluing, and radically transforming lifeworlds; and biopolitical and racialized inequalities in health, risk, development, and disposability. Ecocriticism also involves broad theoretical engagement with discursive formations and semiotic significations, including the interrogation of crisis frameworks and apocalyptic representations, considering their histories, scales, and temporalities, while also asking how any particular socioecological arrangement comes to count as a matter of concern, for whom, and in which contexts. The concept of nature is a long-standing theoretical topic in ecocriticism. While nature may seem, rather straightforwardly, to be the domain environmentalism seeks to protect, it is a concept on which hinge crucial and contested claims about ontology (the nature of something, such as assertions about human nature as an inherent, often determining set of shared qualities) and epistemology (how we know what is real, such as the scientific practices through which credible assertions can be made that the planetary climate is changing), claims whose modern authority has rested on positioning nature as a domain outside culture. While structuralist and poststructuralist theorists have destabilized the binary opposition of nature to culture, the political and epistemological imperative to engage with nature as simultaneously material and semiotic has spawned an array of theoretical developments, from Donna Haraway’s cyborg figure and other “natureculture” assemblages to new materialisms. Meanwhile, nature circulates as a commodity form and spectacle animating digital, film, and television screens as well as many other consumer products and experiences. Cultural studies approaches to ecocriticism raise questions about the relationships of visual, narrative, and sound representations to economic power, media technologies, and the material and social ecologies through which they are produced and which they form and transform.