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Fossil Power: Energy Empire and Insurgent Life

  • Tanaka, Shouhei
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2023
eScholarship - University of California
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Fossil Power: Energy Empire and Insurgent Life examines narratives of fossil fuel modernity from the nineteenth to twenty-first century to show how the history and culture of energy in the United States is a project of racial-capitalist empire. What I call fossil power names key social formations and worldmaking systems of energy empire: racial capitalism, globalization, slavery, border imperialism, and settler colonialism. The project offers a new look at the stories told about energy and modernity from below by analyzing Asian American, African American, Indigenous, and Latinx literatures that excavate US fossil fuel modernity’s contested racial histories and geographies of power. Reading the works of dg nanouk okpik, Simon J. Ortiz, Paisley Rekdal, Helena Mar�a Viramontes, Gerald Vizenor, Colson Whitehead, Karen Tei Yamashita, and C Pam Zhang, I examine how these environmental narratives envision insurgent forms of life that resist energy empire. Fossil Power offers two contributions to the environmental humanities and American literary and cultural studies. First, the project analyzes energy modernity through racial capitalism and empire. Second, it connects critical race and ethnic studies to energy studies by outlining an environmental justice framework that understands energy through abolition, anticapitalism, and decolonization. Literature, I argue, illuminates the cultural politics of energy by foregrounding the narrative tactics, tropes, and templates that shape both energy discourses and energy systems, and by showing how fossil power structures the everyday contexts, practices, and movements of social life.

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