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UNC Latina/o Studies Program "Health, Environment, and LatinX Experiences" Symposium Day 3: (E)merging Bodies: Environmental Hazards and Vulnerable Populations in LatinX Ecopoetics - UNC English & Comparative Literature

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UNC Latina/o Studies Program “Health, Environment, and LatinX Experiences” Symposium Day 3: (E)merging Bodies: Environmental Hazards and Vulnerable Populations in LatinX Ecopoetics

September 14, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

(E)merging Bodies: Environmental Hazards and Vulnerable Populations in LatinX Ecopoetics

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The Lithic Poetics of Limestone: Porosity and Vulnerability in a Warming World

Presenter: Christine Johns

Geopoetics is a relatively new philosophical attempt to engage the poetic relationship between peoples and their environments, including geological landscapes. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s articulation of a lithic poetics as the poetry of the earth unpacks the role of stone in geopoetic approaches. Kamau Brathwaite’s “tidal dialectic” (“tidalectic”) method seeks an oceanic approach to history and culture which emphasizes the cyclicality of oceans and tides. Between these bodies of literary scholarship, between the geological and the oceanic, the figure of limestone as both mediator and measure of risk remains to be explored, particularly in the context of environmental crises that worsen concerns of erosion and flooding so deeply embedded in limestone’s pores. In the Caribbean and Florida, geology, coastlines, and clean water access are frequently shaped by limestone aquifers that are subjected to the destruction of natural disasters. In the poetry of these regions, I argue, the figure of limestone encapsulates the qualities of porosity and vulnerability as well as peninsular and island histories. This essay will explore limestone’s poetic expression at the crossroads of three poets. Puerto Rican poet Victor Hernández Cruz’s The Mountain in the Sea (2006), Barbadian poet Anthony Kellman’s Limestone: An Epic Poem of Barbados (2008), and Cuban-American poet Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué’s Losing Miami (2019) each express limestone as a mediator of tides and culture. As a sculptor of many coastlines and an intermediary between ocean and land, and between humans and nonhumans, limestone and its poetic expression invite engagements with geopoetics and tidalectics in the Anthropocene.

“A Place with no public memory”: Pueblo and Nuevomexicano experience at the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory

Presenter: Sejal Mahendru

This paper studies the interviews by native Pueblo and LatinX Nuevomexicano workers in and around the Los Alamos Nuclear laboratory (LANL) during various stages of its existence, in conjunction with poems from established and emerging LatinX writers from the valley, in order to constellate the forgotten and ignored experiences of those to whom the land belonged. The intersecting axes of economic, racial-ethnic, nationalist identities of the people living in northern New Mexico highlight a unique experience of nuclearization unlike that of the rest of the USA. While in the national imagination, the nuclear project was often associated with United States’ growing military and political clout even as it thrust citizens’ daily lives into theoretical possibilities of annihilation, for the residents of New Mexico (especially poorer residents of color) the nuclear phenomenon was a material reality that had to be negotiated through their bodies and land. Imbricated in economic and ecological systems where citizenship and survival are constantly negotiated, the native and LatinX communities of New Mexico have responded through their own environmentalist movements, which were often at odds with mainstream Anglo Environmentalism. This paper attempts to situate these experiences within the larger framework of economic crises and political questions of citizenship to understand the complex nuclear legacies of the native communities of New Mexico.