Name: Cheryl Lousley
Department: Departments of English and Interdisciplinary Studies
Title of Lakehead University Research Chair: Environmental Humanities
Start date: March 1, 2019
Website address of researcher: www.lakeheadu.ca/users/L/clousley/node/17047
Keywords Describing Chair's Areas of Research: Environmental politics, memory, narrative, Canadian, Indigenous, resource conflict, inequality, environmental justice, national myths
Research relevance (importance of the research and how it will benefit Canadians):
My research adds historical context, cultural nuance, and less-heard voices to important public discussions about environmental policies.
Description of the project
Title: Environmental Narrative and Memory in Contemporary Canadian and Indigenous Writing
My research explores how Canadian and Indigenous writers tell environmental stories that remember contested histories: stories about resource collapse, displaced communities, poisoned workers, landscapes in ruins, Indigenous dispossession, contaminated waters, and diminished futures. I work on understanding how these stories approach the political difficulties of unevenly shared resource benefits, degradation, pollution, and health risks. And I examine how the ecological losses they describe are and are not acknowledged in the national myths and shared cultural memories that underlie collective political action and response.
Stories and representation are a pivotal part of our environmental challenges. While it is often assumed that more representations of nature will lead more people to care about its loss, media screens and entertainment venues are already full of charismatic representations of landscapes and animals. Indeed, the more that nature is represented in popular culture as a fragile world apart, the more it appears to be separate from the commodity flows and infrastructure development that have remade our biophysical world in deeply unjust and unsustainable ways. Environmental problems, in tandem, are spectacularly visible in media accounts of disaster, yet remarkably unseen as the ill bodies, emptied lands and waters, toxic accumulation, climate change, and species declines of everyday life.
These environmental burdens are disproportionately borne by those already socially marginalized, compounding both their marginalization and the cultural invisibility of ecological loss and degradation. The key challenge is how to make our complex and uneven socio-ecological relationships socially visible as political questions about how we live, who benefits, and who decides.