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Decolonizing cartographies : sovereignty, territoriality, and maps of meaning in the uranium landscape


This dissertation explores the development of the uranium industry on Native land in the southwest, with a particular emphasis on how Navajo land came to be host over 1,100 uranium mine and mill sites. The disproportionate location of uranium sites on Navajo land, and the fact that these sites have not been cleaned up to protect human and environmental health from the dangers of radiation, certainly makes this an urgent case of environmental racism. My study links the growing literature of environmental justice studies to ethnic and indigenous studies in order to explore the conditions of coloniality that have constructed both Navajo lands and bodies as violable for the purposes of both national security (by the Atomic Energy Commission) and industrial development (by both the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the uranium industry). This project uses interdisciplinary method and theory to approach what I call the "uranium landscape" from two angles. The first argues that the disproportionate focus of uranium prospectors and miners in the 1950s relied on constructions in federal cartography and agronomic discourse of Navajo land as "worthless" for agriculture- and grazing-based economies. The second argues that resistance to the uranium industry has taken a distinctively cartographic form, in the sense of protecting parts of the uranium landscape by extending Native claims to that land. Both of these angles explore the ways in which environmental harm and subsequent social movements for environmental justice are shaped by the intersections of racialization, gender, sexuality, and hegemonic ideas about "nature" and political economy

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