Energy Democracies for Sustainable Futures - Chapter 23: Situating energy justice: Storytelling risk and resilience in the Navajo Nation

Elsevier, Energy Democracies for Sustainable Futures, 2022, Pages 215-224
Dana E. Powell, Bidtah Becker

This chapter integrates independent empirical observations with co-analysis and co-writing, by Diné attorney Bidtah Becker and environmental anthropologist Dana E. Powell, to argue that the appearance of COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation makes visible long-standing infrastructural challenges facing the Navajo Nation. We show how energy might be rethought in relation to Diné concepts about vitality, and how self-determination—materially underpinned by extractive industries in the Navajo Nation—invites a re-thinking of what it means to be “recover” from historical and ongoing threats to the individual and collective body. We suggest that energy does not only need to be democratized but ultimately, needs to be decolonized from the processes that place fossil fuels in the service of settler capitalism, rather than Diné sovereignty. Such a move might enable movements toward energy justice, which is not a technical fix delivered by new hardware but an analytic that critically centers self-determination and new forms of relationality.