‘Bad ecosex’ against settler colonialism? Astrida Neimanis, ‘Toxic Erotics and Bad Ecosex at Windermere Basin’, Environmental Humanities, 14, 3, 2022, pp. 699-717


Abstract: How do settler colonialism, control of women’s and differently gendered bodies, sex, industry, pollution—but also pleasure, love, care, desire, bodily autonomy, and survival—cleave together and apart in the inland wetland of Windermere Basin park? Starting with this question, this article explores my own attraction to this tiny place in postindustrial and settler colonial Hamilton, Ontario. I am curious about what it can teach us about the complex entanglements of these things, and the toxic desires that are both enabled and foreclosed by the relations that gather here. In the first section, I briefly rehearse the basin’s toxic history and, guided by Audre Lorde’s definition of erotics and Catriona Sandilands formative work on queer ecologies, my own desirous attachments to the life it nonetheless sustains. The next section reveals how, in the context of settler colonialism and climate catastrophe, these erotics are queerly tangled in questions of more-than-human gender, sex, and reproduction, too, in ways that invite a capacious and multivalent understanding of reproductive justice. The final section examines the performance art of white settler ecosexuals Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens, but sets this alongside a performance by Vanessa Dion Fletcher at Windermere, in order to insist on a version of ecosexual erotics that, while joyous, remains imbricated in fraught histories, complicity, and an inalienable attention to what Michif scholar Max Liboiron parses as “differences and obligations.” Taking a cue from settler feminist artist and scholar Lindsay Kelley, I refer to this as “bad ecosex.” In its refusal of purity, bad ecosex holds the trouble of contemporary ecological relations together with the pleasurable power of erotics to build a politics of change grounded in feeling deeply.

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