Research

Diné Environmental Politics  Standing Rock/NoDAPL  Eastern North Carolina

Most of my research, since 2003, has focused on Navajo (Diné) environmental justice and energy politics. Through work I had been doing in the late ’90s and early 2000’s with the organization Honor the Earth, I became interested in new wind and solar systems emerging on Native Nations. I witnessed tribal leadership and grassroots movements efforts toward alternative energy systems as resistance to the colonial conditions of (under)development in Native Nations, but this then lead me back to fossil fuels: along with many activists, I wanted to understand why certain infrastructures of thinking and of building remained dominant, despite the growing alarm over climate change and renewed threats to the political and environmental integrity of indigenous lands. I became caught up in a debate over a new coal-fired power plant proposed for the Navajo Nation, and this became the subject of my dissertation research and eventually, the full length ethnographic book, Landscapes of Power, available from Duke University Press.

Current Collaborations
Presently, I am collaborating with Earl Tulley (Diné) on a new project based in his home community of Blue Gap, Navajo Nation, on lived experiences of the changing climate. This project has received initial support from the ACLS and a fellowship at Cornell’s Society for the Humanities. A 2020 Workshop grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) supports my new collaboration with Diné geographers Dr. Andrew Curley (Univ. of Arizona) and Majerle Lister (UNC-Chapel Hill), “Toxicity and Transition: Collaborative Research on Risk, Energy Development, and Environmental Sustainability in the Navajo Nation.”  Our project is also addressing the lived effects of COVID19 in the Navajo Nation as an added layer of vulnerability in a landscape shaped by ruin and resilience. For more information on this NSF project, please email me.