Breathing Room: Climate Displacement, Biopolitics, and Indigenous Sovereignty in Northwest Alaska

Griffin, P. Joshua. Breathing Room: Climate Displacement, Biopolitics, and Indigenous Sovereignty in Northwest Alaska. Diss. U of Washington. 2019.

Abstract: This dissertation is a critical, engaged ethnography of climate change displacement and contemporary Indigenous politics in the context of an intergenerational struggle for environmental justice, self-determination, and a future in Kivalina Alaska. It seeks to understand the impacts of climate change in historical context, especially in relation to settler and welfare colonialism. But it also broadly considers the question of what political options and practical strategies are being created by frontline Indigenous communities, like Kivalina, whose desires and needs exceed the capacity of existing institutions to adequately plan or provide, in the midst of unprecedented environmental change. Conversant with the environmental social sciences and the environmental humanities writ large, the dissertation offers a critique of prevailing approaches to climate risk, displacement, vulnerability and adaptation in the Arctic, while also articulating community-based modes of knowledge production grounded through a commitment to Indigenous sovereignty. It does this while also theoretically situating the bodily risks and structural violence of climate change in the context of contemporary Indigenous political theory and the particular genealogy of colonial biopolitics in Northwest Alaska. Above all, this dissertation is a testament to the strength and creativity of Kivalina's people who have, time and time again, maneuvered within, against, and beyond the entanglements of colonialism so as to hold open the possibility of a just, healthy, and self-determined collective future.

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