Miss Josephine Taylor

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Energy Regimes, Extraction, and Transition: Tracing the Non-Human in Petrocultures

Synopsis: This thesis primary motivation is to conceive of a non-anthropocentric relation to energy, while tracing the literary and cultural histories of the impacts of crude oil on non-human life and our wider ecology. The project utilises scholarship from feminism and animal studies to create a combined methodology in addressing the impacts of extraction and energy regimes, and ultimately to conceive of future possibilities away from violent extraction. Drawing on scholars such as Anat Pick, Judith Butler, and Carol J. Adams, as well as variety of other figures in the field of Environmental Humanities, I foreground a methodology that situates the degradation of the environment and suffering of the non-human animal as a feminist issue. Throughout the thesis, a feminist animal studies provides a lens of critical recognition, illuminating buried suffering and neglect.  My literary and cultural analysis first begins with the origins of oil culture with that of 19th century whaling in the world of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick or The Whale. I address its synthesis with the beginnings of oil extraction in the historical account of John McLaurin in Sketches of Crude Oil, an early account of the oil industry in North America. Moving onto contemporary modes of extraction, I analyse meat production and energy extraction in the work of modern sci-fi including Michel Faber and Nnedi Okorafor. Implicit in my analysis is a critique of the violent legacies of colonialism that stem from 19th century whaling to their more covert and capitalist format in modern energy production. Following this, I move from extraction zones to their disastrous aftermath in the form of oil spills, road kills, and contaminated water flows in literary and visual culture of Steve Baker, Helon Habila, and Rita Wong. In the final chapter, I once again turn to science fiction through an analysis of Solaris and The Dispossessed with a focus on how they may garner a non-anthropocentric relation to energy, and open up possibilities of a just and utopian transition from violent extraction practices.


ID: 29295065