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Migrant Ecocriticism: An Unsettling in the Environmental Humanities

Book Proposal in-progress

This book proposes using a migrant reading practice as a methodology to critically analyze anthologies, which—in this book’s context—acknowledges generalized experiences and metanarratives that shape ecopoetry anthologies (namely the metanarrative of a national identity, the editorial metanarrative or how anthologies curate their own materials, and the metanarrative of anthologizing) but insists upon the singularity of an anthology’s curation, the collated ecopoetry, and their individual counternarratives. This method also relies on my personal scholarly narratives as a migrant and an anthologist as guides towards an embodied exercise of my self-reflexivity and discernment towards the anthologies included in this analysis. 

I argue that a critical migrant reading practice is a radical and novel method to reimagining, reconceptualizing, and reconstructing the future and value of an ecopoetry anthology in the environmental humanities to deconstruct territorialized and Euro-American concepts in ecocriticism. These concepts, critical to the construction of ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, are unsettled to introduce a new way of thinking and embodiment that deconstructs binaries and identities that are attached to racialized and politicized environmental discourse through an engagement with the texts that does not rely on divisiveness or tensions. A Migrant Ecocriticism is a timely and compelling framework in this world of increasingly politicized and polarized migration of humans and more-than-humans across walls, seas, national borders, and the boundaries of fragmented habitats.   

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Fragmenting the West Coast

A counter-cartographic, public-facing, and digital project, with the support of the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellowship and the Digital Humanities Innovation Laboratory (DHIL) of Simon Fraser University

My research project examines how contemporary Asian poets in Canada relate their experiences of migration, culture, and the environment on the West Coast. Through a close analysis of their poems and related writing, I will construct a radical, revisionary cartography of British Columbia that demonstrates the cultural and historical importance of the unique narratives of Asians in this region. I situate my cultural analysis in a historical context by charting how the history of Asian immigration to the West Coast was spurred by the desire to capitalize on British Columbia’s natural resources (namely minerals, forests, bodies of water, and lands suitable for agriculture). This history results in distinctive representations of the region in poetry. Further, I argue that immigrants and people of colour—specifically Asians—are utilized to extract natural resources from Indigenous lands and their own native countries as part of economic agreements through globalization. In contrast, the individual narratives that are in the poetry of Asians in Canada writers remap the province we are familiar with today by interrogating multiculturalism and placing the narratives of poetry as a focal point.

 

This project brings together important works by Asian poets in Canada to present a counter-narrative of British Columbia. As an archive, it also documents the extractive labour that Asian immigrants have undertaken in BC to overcome discrimination, marginalization, and oppression.    

In the future, this digital archive will be expanded to the rest of Western Canada and Northern America through online submissions and Open Access-affiliated resources.

 

Website mock-up is by Joey Takeda of the DHIL. 

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A Geography of (Un)Natural Hazards

Poetry chapbook in-progress

This poetry chapbook is a cathartic response to visual and environmental nature-cultures. I use words to paint countergeographies, make sense of liminal identities, and to create a space where the written visual becomes an embodied shared experience. The poems in this collection are meant to be performed, heard, held, and explored. The words here are born to migrate—beyond the stage, beyond the page.

Poem in the image is "113 Submerged Reefs," published in g u e s t 17 and The Global South 19.1. 

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An Anthology of Southeast Asian Eco-Writing

Forthcoming with the Manoa Journal of the University of Hawai'i Press

Southeast Asia (SEA) is a region characterised by rich biodiversity as well as biocultural urgencies, where the natural world is frequently understood through an extractivist and technocapitalist lens (Ryan 2017, 7). Under colonial rule, the preservationist and conservationist discourse taking place in America and Europe in the late nineteenth century were not seen as applicable to the natural environs of SEA. In the twentieth century, the consolidation of modern nation-states alongside a strongly developmentalist agenda resulted in the further marginalisation of environmentalism in the region. Historically and culturally, many popular ecological imaginaries, especially relating to tropicality and the wilderness in this region, are conceptually negative. By contrast, Indigenous and grassroots approaches to the natural world remain undocumented and untranslated.

As the discourse of environmentalism shifts to foreground transnational and translocal perspectives, writers who have roots in SEA have begun to explore their own relationships to and notions of the environment(s) in their respective countries. In this anthology, the editors encourage writers to engage with the geographies, cultures, environments, and histories of SEA through creative expressions—poetry, fiction, essays (creative non-fiction)—to speculate, re-imagine, and reflect on the ecologies of the region. 

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Dismantling Disaster, Death, and Survival in Philippine Ecopoetry

Kritika Kultura, 2016

The Philippines, a country situated close to the equator and in the Pacific Ring of Fire, has been constantly hit by natural disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes, landslides, and more. With a good number of local poetry dealing with these natural disasters as themes, is it possible for ecopoetry to provide readers with clear ideas on how to survive these catastrophic events? The major objective of this study is to explore the role of literature in promoting survival through the exploration of death and disaster in poetry. To do this, the different versions of disaster in the poetry of Merlie Alunan and Abercio V. Rotor are analyzed using the concept of “dismantling.” Dismantling involves surfacing the “scars of history” in poetry to create an ambience of disaster, which will link the dismantling of the (inside) feelings of the human being with the (outside) physical experience to clear a space for survival. Here, ecopoetry serves as a catalyst for sustainable thoughts which can be calls to action for preventing future disasters. Moreover, ecopoetry is also a “witness to history” wherein writing about disasters is acknowledged as an act of surviving, conquering trauma, and providing a personal perspective to historical survival accounts. Ecopoetry, then, is also demonstrated as a “time capsule” of certain tragedies – one that may be more accurate than memory can ever be.

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