My research interests span Anglophone postcolonial and global South literature, the environmental humanities, climate change and the Anthropocene, new materialism, transcorporeality and embodiment, politics and aesthetics, cultural studies, and critical theory.

From oil pollution to sea level rise, the Global South has borne the brunt of environmental calamity. 

The archive of postcolonial and global Anglophone writing has been produced alongside such disasters and, I argue, brings enduring environmental harm into focus as an object of address and redress, rather than the speculations of a bad sublime. To this end, my research shows how perspectives from postcolonial and global Anglophone literature enrich our understandings of agency, politics, endurance, and futurity amidst environmental crisis as well as how the environmental humanities can reshape key concerns in postcolonial literary studies. 

Forms of Failure: Environmental Harm and Welfare Cultures in the Global South

My book project, “Forms of Failure: Environmental Harm and Welfare Cultures in the Global South” reconsiders welfare as a cultural and aesthetic form, and as a political resource, in postcolonial modernity. Welfare has too often only been imagined as a policy goal or as a measurable standard. It is in fact an aesthetic, cultural, and political ideal that acts as a flashpoint for the subjectivities, affective intensities, and temporal dissonances produced by environmental harm and political stagnation. In “Forms of Failure” I examine the writing of global Anglophone novelists and poets such as Chinua Achebe, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, Helon Habila, and others alongside popular declarations, juridical cases, and legislative policies. Reading these as intertexts, I find that environmental discourses remake a range of political norms central to welfare, like civilian protection and economic prosperity, to imagine forms of welfare that respond more properly to harm. In doing so, my work shows how welfare offers a lively heuristic for imagining the state, claiming subjectivity, and articulating agency in the literature of slow violent times, when political change or definitive action must be fashioned aesthetically against the inertia of unredressed environmental harm.  

I am in the early stages of two other projects, one that considers speculation as a mode shared by popular science, realist fiction, SF, and future-oriented ecoart and another that considers how postcolonial modernity reshapes environmental genres like pastoral and apocalypse.

© 2019 by Rebecca Oh
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