Reed Elizabeth McConnell

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Chicago, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10707

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

McConnell, Reed (Chicago, U. of) "Imperial Futures: Post-Apocalyptic Visions, Settler Colonial Whiteness, and Environmental Justice in Late Industrial California"

Bombay Beach, California, is a former resort town located on the shores of the Salton Sea, an enormous polluted lake in California’s Imperial Valley desert. In the 1970s, a series of violent floods left the town in ruins, and it is now home to about two hundred residents, mostly poor white retirees who vacationed there as children. Additionally, tourists, artists, and programmers—mostly white and affluent—have been flocking to the town to harness its ruins in imagining a “post-apocalyptic” future. However, for Imperial Valley’s mostly poor, mostly Latino residents, apocalyptic futures are not just fantasies: the region is facing multiple looming environmental disasters, and a new lithium extraction plant is raising questions about extraction’s risks. Taking up the ways that Imperial Valley has been historically treated as a racialized, “pollutable” wasteland, and the idea that settler colonialism and whiteness are not monoliths, but ongoing processes that require active maintenance work, my dissertation asks: What might investigating the work that goes into imagining different futures in Imperial Valley reveal about the granular processes of reproducing settler colonialism and whiteness in today’s United States? And what might it reveal about how some are working to challenge precisely this racial and settler colonial order?