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Watts receives Society of Scholars Fellowship

Rich Watts stands in front of a row of bookshelves. He wears a black puffy vest and black sweater.

March 29, 2021

Professor Richard Watts, faculty director of the Canadian Studies Center, has received the Simpson Center for the Humanities’ Society of Scholars Fellowship for academic year 2021-2022, which will allow him to complete his book manuscript titled Reclaimed Waters: Literary History, Translation, and Resource Decolonization in the Francophone Post/colonial World, which includes a chapter on Indigenous literary responses to mega-dam projects in Québec. Broadly, the manuscript considers fundamental changes in access to life’s most crucial element, fresh water, in literature and other cultural forms from the francophone world that reveal how it is nearly always mediated by local or national governments and increasingly by global corporations that bottle it, dam it, or otherwise control its distribution, typically with significant colonial implications. Behind these changes in access lie the twin anxieties that the world’s rapidly growing population is outpacing the more or less fixed global fresh water supply and the simultaneously longstanding and present global environmental crisis is ushering in an era of wildly fluctuating water resources. The textual and visual forms of cultural production from the francophone post/colonial world that the project considers anxiously name this present and imagine a fraught future for water. Still, they construct narratives of transnational and transcultural belongings that are bound up with this increasingly scarce resource and use water as a means of figuring a place for the dispossessed in global economic and cultural spheres. They aim symbolically to reclaim water as part of broader, ongoing projects of cultural and political-economic autonomy and renewal that can and must be understood as decolonial.