Date of Degree

9-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Kenneth Gould

Subject Categories

American Studies | Asian American Studies | Environmental Policy | Environmental Studies | Oral History | Political History | Public History | Race and Ethnicity | Urban Studies

Keywords

environmental justice, people of color environmental leadership summit, asian american activists, cyborg theory

Abstract

The goal of this paper is threefold: to serve as an oral history archive of the East Asian American experience at the 1991 People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, to analyze the role of East Asian Americans in the Environmental Justice Movement (EJM), and to fill an ideological and political vacuum that exists in East Asian American communities. This work analyses the experiences of East Asian Americans who were present at the 1991 People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit--an event scholars have attributed to igniting the EJM. The paper argues that East Asian Americans act as “Cyborgs”—both as their ascribed racializations under systems of White Supremacy and as posited in Donna Haraway’s influential Cyborg Manifesto — to use the technologies conceptualized in Chela Sandoval’s Methodology of the Oppressed to gain autonomy and liberation from various systems of oppression. The East Asian American cyborgs present at the 1991 Summit embody Haraway’s cyborgian values by complicating infrastructures of oppression with their mere existence, organizing and empowering their communities, and utilizing their proximity to power to be effective allies to other communities engaged in struggles for environmental justice. This work is written in three chapters: Chapter 1: Cyborgian Pasts and Present presents the historical and theoretical framework of the Cyborg – both in the Harawayian sense and the racialized sense in relation to East Asian bodies - in addition to providing historical context of the Asian American movement and the Environmental Movement; Chapter 2: Planning Cyborgian Futures: Stories from the 1991 People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit describes the events of the Summit as told by the attendees; and Chapter 3: Building Cyborgian Futures: Methodology and Practice describes how the Cyborgian East Asian American attendees of the conference use Sandoval’s technologies to build a more environmentally just world for all communities.

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