Prof. Elizabeth A. Wheeler (University of Oregon, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen): "Heroines of the Flood: What Afrofuturist Science Fiction Can Teach Us about Environmental Injustice, Disability Politics, and Sustainable Leadership"

Thursday, 29.11.2018, 10:15-11:45 a.m., U5/02.22 

The politics of water—the floods and droughts of climate change, the lack of clean sources—reveal the tools communities have and lack. In the United States, poor communities of color often become zones of environmental sacrifice. These communities are exposed to toxins, then deprived of the resources to accommodate the disabilities the toxins leave behind. This talk focuses on environmental politics in science fiction and in the contemporary United States. In the science fiction genre of Afrofuturism, parallel societies reveal the contours of social inequality in our own world. The young adult climate fiction dystopia Orleans (2013) by Sherri L. Smith serves as a blueprint for understanding environmental injustice, disability politics, and the qualities needed for sustainable and healthy leadership. Orleans models for adolescent readers how to launch a social critique against police brutality, climate change, and lack of disability services. The brave heroine of Orleans has real-life counterparts in the young women who have protested against lead poisoning in zones of environmental sacrifice like Flint, Michigan.

Elizabeth A. Wheeler is an Associate Professor of English and Director of the Disability Studies Minor at the University of Oregon in the United States. Her book HandiLand: Disability in Young Adult and Children’s Books will appear in 2019 from the University of Michigan Press in the Corporealities: Discourses of Disability series. Prof. Wheeler currently holds the Ottilie Wildermuth Chair Visiting Professorship for Teaching English as a Foreign Language at the University of Tübingen.