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Debajyoti Biswas

Debajyoti Biswas

Title: Solastalgia and Poetic Resilience in the Environmental Imagination of Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner

Authors: Debajyoti Biswas & John Charles Ryan

Abstract: Indigenous communities across the world and, more specifically, those of the Global South are especially vulnerable to the effects of human-induced climate change. Standing at the crossroads of modernity and ancestral life, many communities face overwhelming losses of biocultural traditions along with their rightful homelands. Such loss has led to anxiety among communities firmly rooted in particular places. As a form of resistance to pervasive capitalist forces benefiting from the degradation of the environment, climate poetry offers an alternative response for voicing concerns in the form of protesting ecological abuses while allaying the anxiety of solastalgic disruption. This paper examines the poetic imagination of Marshall Islands writer and activist Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner by linking her work to the concept of solastalgia and resilience. Representative of current Indigenous concerns over climate change and biocultural loss, Jetn̄il-Kijiner’s poetry presents a powerful voice from a postcolonial nation located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the Philippines. Her poetry exudes a sense of solastalgia in response to the ecologically destructive influence of powerful Western nations, in general, and the United States, in particular, on the Marshall Islands. Narrativising the concept of solastalgia, Jetn̄il-Kijiner’s poetry critiques human-driven ecological ruination and voices concern about the impacts of climate change on island nations. Her work, furthermore, underscores that postcolonial states, such as the Marshall Islands, must negotiate conflicting relationships with the forces of modernity that underlie ecologically detrimental choices and behaviours. The paper thus aims to extend the concept of solastalgia to Indigenous communities through an analysis of Jetn̄il-Kijiner’s work.

Keywords: Anthropocene, climate change poetry, Indigeneity, Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner, Marshall Islands, postcolonial modernity, solastalgia

Bio: Debajyoti Biswas, PhD, is currently working in the Department of English at Bodoland University. His areas of interest are Nationalism and identity, Environmental Humanities and Anglophone fiction from Northeast India. He has contributed more than forty research articles in various edited books and journals like South Asian Popular Culture (T&F), Postcolonial Studies (T&F),  Journal of International Women’s StudiesJournal of Environmental Studies and Sciences (Springer), Rupkatha, Policing: Journal of Policy and Practice (OUP), English: Journal of English Association (OUP), Social Science and Humanities Communications (Springer), RUDN journal of studies in literature and journalism (RUDN University, Russia), Corvinus Journal of Sociology and Social Policy ( Corvinus University, Hungary). His edited books are Nationalism in India: Texts and Contexts (Routledge), Ethnonationalism in India (Atlantic Publishers), Global Perspectives on nationalism: Political and Cultural Discourses (Routledge). His monograph Anglophone Literature from Northeast India (Atlantic), and edited books Disability & Peripherality: Perspectives and Narratives from India’s North East (Springer), Environmental Humanities in India (Springer) are forthcoming in 2023. He can be reached at deb61594@gmail.com