Guest Lecture

Of Temporality and Tamaulipan Thornscrub: Settler Colonialism and Speculative Fiction in a Trans-Border Ecological Habitat

Of Temporality and Tamaulipan Thornscrub: Settler Colonialism and Speculative Fiction in a Trans-Border Ecological Habitat

John Morán González (Univ. of Texas at Austin)

“This presentation stems from my ongoing research about the nexus of speculative fiction and the environment as these intersected in multiple settle colonial projects along the present-day lower Rio Grande Valley along the Texas-Mexico border. Specifically, I seek to develop the interpretive framework of colonial xenoforming, a trope borrowed from science fiction but redeployed to describe and analyze the material and representational processes by which settler colonialism projects its environmental transformations of “wilderness” (i.e., environments not suited for extractive projects of various kinds) into exploitable landscapes. I will explore the intersection between capitalist speculation and speculative representations that are essential to projecting exploitative and extractive scenarios, or “futures.” While I will contextualize this effort within the work of the Refusing to Forget project, I will largely concentrate on how this dynamic appears in the near-future science fiction narrative The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi. This 2015 novel follows protagonist Angel Velasquez, the titular “water knife,” a corporate mercenary whose job is to find new sources of water for a climate-changed, drought-stricken U.S. Southwest. With water more valuable than oil, Velasquez is empowered to obtain the legal rights to water sources by any means necessary; in particular, the narrative revolves around his, and his competitors’, violent attempts to secure water rights promised long ago in treaties to indigenous tribal nations.” (John Morán González)

John Morán González is the J. Frank Dobie Regents Professor of American and English Literature and Director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He attended Princeton University, graduating magna cum laude with an A.B. in English literature. He earned an M.A. degree and a Ph.D. in American literature, both from Stanford University. He is author of Border Renaissance: The Texas Centennial and the Emergence of Mexican American Literature and The Troubled Union: Expansionist Imperatives in Post-Reconstruction American Novels. He is also editor of The Cambridge Companion to Latina/o American Literature, published by Cambridge University Press in 2016. He is co-editor (with Laura Lomas) of The Cambridge History of Latina/o American Literature (2018), which was selected as a 2018 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title. He is co-editor (with Vildan Mahmutoglu) of Communication of Migration in Media and Arts (2020). He co-edited, with Sonia Hernández, the critical anthology Reverberations of Racial Violence: Critical Reflections on the History of the Border (2021).

This talk will take place online on Wednesday / 30.06.2021 from 5:15 – 6:30pm via Webex. Everyone interested is welcome to attend – just click here to join the lecture.