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Authors: Molesky, Jason
Advisors: Nixon, Rob
Contributors: English Department
Subjects: American literature
Environmental justice
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Drawing on conceptual frameworks from the energy and environmental humanities, critical racestudies, and new and historical materialisms, Cultures of Corporate Sovereignty: Environmental Art and Activism in US Company Towns examines the art and material cultures of US company towns during the high age of fossil capitalism, roughly 1880 to the present. Corporations headquartered in the US built and superintended many thousands of settlements across the planet during this period, ranging from paternalist model villages to postmodern special economic areas. These neofeudal institutions continue to inspire formally inventive works of art and literature that set themselves against the current resurgence of private government in most every sphere of human and nonhuman life. Cultures of Corporate Sovereignty examines artworks that have emerged from, or been shaped by,corporate-controlled ecosystems within the geographical United States, while also gesturing toward similar sites abroad. Its four chapters engage critical questions raised by these texts on urgent social and environmental justice concerns, including compromised citizenship, racialized surveillance, and the intergenerational transmission of ecological harms. Each chapter examines artefacts from the US company towns of a particular commodity sector deeply implicated in modern energy regimes and environmental disruptions—steel, coal, natural gas, and uranium. The project traces the long development of these artistic traditions, but maintains an analytical focus on contemporary works that illuminate the complex imperial networks corporate settlements generate and subtend through the energies of laboring bodies. The resulting archive is as diverse and eclectic as the communities themselves, comprisingliterature, salvage sculpture, documentary photography, legal casework, street theater, installation art, and folk opera, among others. Each chapter constellates a variety of materials but concentrates on one representative text: LaToya Ruby Frazier’s steel-town photobook, The Notion of Family; Anaïs Mitchell’s coal-saturated musical production, Hadestown; Jennifer Haigh’s hydrofracking novel, Heat and Light; and Will Wilson’s installation on the nuclear complex, Connecting the Dots. Centering such underappreciated texts, most created by artists working from their own direct experiences of the sites under study, Cultures of Corporate Sovereignty argues that we can best interpret Anthropocene cultures by looking beyond the metropolitan core, to the zones of raw corporate power where modernity at once intensifies and begins to break down. As ecological crises and social inequities build to a state of slow, quotidian apocalypse, the project calls attention to a tradition of daring works that animate countervailing possibilities and recollect lively spirits of dissent from deep within the subterranean fundaments of the contemporary.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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