Settler colonial slow violence: Alyssa Martin, The ‘Disposable Others’: Settler Colonial Processes of Industrial Pollution in Cancer Alley, Louisiana, 1964-2023, MA dissertation, University of North Carolina, 2023


Abstract: This thesis uses the lens of settler colonialism to bring memory, place-making, space, and history into the discussion of environmental racism in Louisiana. The effects of environmental racism are most obviously seen through higher rates of health problems or death. Less obvious are the effects that environmental racism has on the history and culture of people of color. To address this historiographical gap, this thesis explores how residents of Cancer Alley, Louisiana, have experienced emotional, generational, and physical erasure. The proliferation of industrial plants in poor Black communities has led to an alarming rise in mortality rates among Black Americans. Cancer Alley is one of the worst examples of this, as the parishes in this area rank in the top 5 percent nationally for cancer risk from toxic air pollution. Although there have been historical works published on environmental history, the history of race and environment, and environmental racism in Louisiana, Cancer Alley itself has not yet been subject to historical scrutiny, despite its uniquely high levels of pollution and large presence of community activism. This thesis seeks to answer the following questions: How have these residents organized and been ignored by local, state, and federal governments? To what extent have historical and cultural elements been affected by the increased presence of petrochemical plants? How has the increasing threat of climate change impacted the history and culture of these communities?

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