Overlapping Currents: Watery Geographies, Black and Indigenous Poetics, and the Anthropocene

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis considers poetic geographies of water in the work of Black and Indigenous poets from Turtle Island/North America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific islands, including M. NourbeSe Philip, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Heid E. Erdrich, No‘u Revilla, Brandy Nālani McDougall, and others. Drawing on scholarship in the environmental humanities, Black, Indigenous, and Pacific studies, ecopoetics, and critical geographies of the Anthropocene, I develop an interdisciplinary approach that combines literary close reading with analysis of spatial practices. I attend to how the poets use formal elements of poetics to engage watery places – from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean to diverted streams in Hawai‘i and pipe infrastructures in Flint, Michigan – as sites of material memory and socio-ecological relation shaped but not foreclosed by colonialism, slavery, and extractive capitalism. Throughout the thesis, I foreground Black and Indigenous feminist and queer approaches in order to highlight the co-constitution of land and water dispossession, racialised and gendered violence, environmental degradation, and colonial epistemologies of space and time in the (re)production of anti-Black and colonial geographies in the Anthropocene. I also attend to the generative methods of poetics within Black and Indigenous feminist demands and practices for remaking such geographies otherwise. The thesis elaborates ‘overlapping currents’ as a methodology for reading geopoetics with different aesthetic and political genealogies together, moving between chapters that focus on a particular poetic work in depth and shorter ‘overlaps’ that (re)read texts in new combinations or choral formations. I argue that these poetics work across scales – from minor details of tense and grammar to site-specific performance – to engage waters as material and epistemological agencies whose multiple temporalities exceed colonial framings. These watery poetics register the everyday, durational impacts of anti-Black and colonial environments as material, embodied conditions in processes of reconfiguring spatial and relational possibilities beyond continued enclosure.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen Mary University of London
Award date31 Aug 2022
Publication statusUnpublished - 2022


  • geopoetics
  • environmental humanities
  • Black geographies
  • Indigenous geographies
  • water
  • anti-colonialism

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