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John Charles Ryan

John Charles Ryan

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: John Charles Ryan, PhD, is Adjunct Associate Professor at Southern Cross University, Australia, and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the Nulungu Institute, Notre Dame University, Australia. His research focuses on Aboriginal Australian literature, Southeast Asian ecocriticism, the environmental humanities, ecopoetics, and critical plant studies. His recent publications include Postcolonial Literature of Climate Change (2022, Brill, co-edited), Environment, Media and Popular Culture in Southeast Asia (2022, Springer, co-edited), Introduction to the Environmental Humanities (2021, Routledge, coauthored), and The Mind of Plants: Narratives of Vegetal Intelligence (2021, Synergetic, co-edited). In May–June 2022, he was Interdisciplinary Writer in Residence at Oak Spring Garden Foundation in Virginia, United States. He can be reached at