Sovereignty, Energy, and Settler-Colonialism

Spring 2020
Kent Linthicum
ENGL 1102
The wealth of the United States is premised upon many things: hard work, inventiveness, an entrepreneurial spirit, and so on, but its first premise is land. Land that had been tended and kept by Native Americans. Land that was taken, stolen, or bought over the course of American expansion west. These lands offered new sources of biomass, fossil fuels, and even uranium to exploit. The American energy system benefited from these abundant fuels (in addition to the labor of enslaved Blacks). This course will explore the ethical/moral valences of energy under settler-colonialism, and engage with questions of indigenous sovereignty, community health, and energy aesthetics. The first half of the class focuses on the Treaty of New Echota of 1835 and the Cherokee deliberations at Red Clay through the writings of Elias Boudinot, John Ross, John Marshall, and others. This will culminate in the recreation of a counterfactual negotiation of the 1835 treaty, using Reacting to the Past curriculum, where students will represent important historical figures debating the ideas of Ross, Boudinot, and the U.S. Constitution. The second half of the class focuses on the modern challenges indigenous sovereignty faces under the settler-colonial energy regime, especially uranium mining and storage in the Southwest and the #NoDAPL movement from 2014–17. In co-ordination with Georgia Tech’s Serve-Learn-Sustain initiative, this part of the class will analyze the intersection between energy, sovereignty, and community health. Through this thematic framework we will highlight all forms of WOVEN (written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal) communication as we consider the moral and cultural implications of energy and sovereignty under settler-colonial rule. In order to develop and deploy rhetorical knowledge students will compose and design critical analyses, posters, speeches, research websites, and other texts. Other graded elements will include project brainstorms, outlines, peer review, and shorter reflections. Ultimately, the course will provide students with opportunities to discuss, practice, and reflect on rhetoric alongside the tools to critique systems of energy.
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