Juanita Sundberg

Associate Professor

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Everyday experiences of national security on the olympic peninsula (2018)

No abstract available.

Geographies of settler colonial dispossession : rejecting gold and prosperity on Tsilhqot'in territory (2016)

My objective in this thesis is to trace how mining laws politically inscribe Indigenous space and territory. In doing so I situate gold mining regulations as central to Canadian settler colonialism and the legal dispossession of Indigenous land. I examine the origins of British Columbia’s mineral staking regulations and juxtapose these historical regulations with those today in order to outline two distinct, but comparatively relevant moments. The first moment is the writing of mining laws in 1858 and 1859, during the formation of the region as a settler colony. I illustrate how the British Crown enacted a system of free entry mineral staking that negated Indigenous sovereignty over resources. The dispossession of land was central to the functioning of colonial mining regulations, and reveals this regulation was and continues to be complicit in reproducing uneven geographies. The second moment is in the contemporary era, and focuses specifically on a mining company’s New Prosperity copper-gold mine proposal on Tsilhqot’in territory at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake). I outline how the environmental assessment process for this mine gave limited but significant space to Indigenous people as participants and decision makers. The mine was rejected based on a panel report written through the guidelines established in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This rejection represents a major victory for the Tsilhqot’in, who remain adamantly opposed to mining at Fish Lake. This decision, though, still rests within the colonial legal framework, and is not a sovereign decision by the Tsilhqot’in. Ultimately, I argue that the dispossession of land is a central tenet of how mineral regulations function through an examination of the everyday enactments of resource regulation, and the resultant resistance, rejection, and refusal of Indigenous people to accept settler colonial terms of engagement. In contemporary Canada these terms of engagement, including environmental assessment, are couched in the politics of recognition and reconciliation that fail to address the fundamental property relation mechanized through Western legal structures.

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Swans, ecological struggles and ontological fractures : a posthumanist account of the Río Cruces disaster in Valdivia, Chile (2016)

This is a dissertation on ontological struggles –that is, struggles between competing ways of performing the world. More precisely, I study the ontological opening resulting from such struggles once what I call dominant performations are exposed to revision and room is made for non-dominant ontologies, such as alternative human/nature entanglements.I analyze the ontological opening provoked by a landmark event in Valdivia, Chile: the Río Cruces ecological disaster that since 2004 has affected a protected wetland and its colony of black-necked swans. The disaster, that followed the installation of a new pulp-mill by ARAUCO, one of the world’s largest pulpwood companies, sparked an unprecedented mobilization with long-lasting effects.Staying close to the “doings” of the actors, my political ontological interpretation describes, first, how the disaster exposed ARAUCO’s environmental practices as constitutive of its way of performing the forest business and, doing so, also fractured Chile’s until then dominant business model. Second, I describe how the disaster revealed the workings of environmental procedures and the techno-scientific knowledges upon which they were based provoking the breakdown of Chile’s environmental edifice and its ensuing reform. Third, I follow the ontological struggle that the disaster unleashed around Valdivia’s identity once dominant performations tied to the city’s industrial past were confronted. I describe how historical entanglements between Valdivians and rivers became the substrate of a reconfigured identity closely connected to wetlands. Finally, I attend to the centrality that the actors attribute to the swans in explaining the disaster’s effects. Despite no meaningful bond with the swans existed before 2004 I conclude that the swan’s “suffering” was the most agentive force within the struggle. I take this finding as evidence of the non-dominant nature/human entanglements that surfaced once dominant realities were fractured.In contrast to critiques that conceive of local mobilizations as failing to embody a fully transformative potential this conclusion demonstrates that single-issue ecological struggles may contribute to the world’s politicization. On the one side, by allowing non-dominant ontologies to manifest and travel more freely and, on the other, by expanding the borders of the political community to previously ignored actors, both human and nonhuman.

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Animal traffic : making, remaking and unmaking commodities in global live wildlife trade (2014)

Against mass species loss and escalating concern over declining biodiversity, legal and illegal trade in wildlife is booming. Annually, it generates tens of billions of dollars and involves the circulation of billions of live and dead animals worldwide. This dissertation examines one dimension of this economy: flows of live, wild-caught animals – namely exotic pets – into North America. My central questions are: how are wild animals’ lives and bodies transformed into commodities that circulate worldwide and can be bought and owned? How are these commodities remade and even unmade? In answering these questions the dissertation is concerned not only with embodied practices, but also with broader, dominant assumptions about particular figures of the human and the animal, and the relations between them. This dissertation draws on reading across economic geography and sociology, political economy and ecology, and political theory to construct a theoretical approach with three strands: a commodity chain framework, a theory of performativity, and an anti-speciesist position. It weaves this theoretical grounding through multi-sited research carried out from 2010-2013, including participant- and spectator-observation, interviews, and film and photography. In this research, to retain a focus on animals I inserted myself in multispecies contact zones. Specifically, I traced three nodes in global live wildlife trade’s circuits: commodification of animals through capture in biosphere reserves in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize; recommodification (re-legitimation of the animals’ status as commodities) through exchange at exotic animal auctions across the US; and attempted decommodification through rehabilitation at a wildlife centre in Guatemala. This research suggests that commodification and decommodification are not processes of “denaturing” and “renaturing”, respectively. Rather, they are both productions of particular natures. Commodification produces an encounterable, individual and controllable animal life. Decommodification seeks to do the opposite. Ultimately, I argue that all of these global live wildlife trade processes depend on and perform, or bring into being, a human/animal dualism that positions the human figure as a master subject and the animal as a subordinate object. This dissertation thus amounts to a critique of the exotic pet commodity form.

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"Marking Land, Producing Markets": The Making of a Guatamalan Rural Land Market (2009)

No abstract available.

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Constructing AFRICOM : understanding US Africa Command’s articulation of security, contingency, and Africanism for the 21st century. (2018)

This thesis investigates the creation and evolution of the US’ newest military command, USAfrica Command (AFRICOM). It contributes to ongoing debates around ‘liberal’ government,securitization (in terms of circulation, police and the ‘security-development nexus’), 21st century‘humanitarian’ warfare, militarization of humanitarianism and development, Africanist andinterventionist imaginative geographies, and critical public health. I look at the causes andconsequences of AFRICOM’s establishment, in particular its involvement in the 2013-16 Ebolaepidemic and its role in humanitarian and development work more broadly, to critically assessvarious claims made by government officials and spokespeople for the command which presentAFRICOM as a wholly new type of command. AFRICOM is said to take a holistic ‘whole-of-government’ approach whereby civilian and military branches of government cooperate inservice of the ‘three Ds’: defense, diplomacy and development; AFRICOM is not imposed, butcooperates with African nations as ‘partners’, through sharing intelligence and providing trainingprograms for African militaries. Through archival examination of government and strategicdocuments, media coverage and publicly-available transcripts of interviews with AFRICOMofficers, I argue that – contrary to official claims – the command’s creation is motivatedprimarily by US interest in facilitating the circulation of African resources (particularly oil) inpatterns conducive to US economic interest, and also reflects increasing concern with Chinesecompetition. The command’s claims to holism or ‘African-led’ involvement represent less a seachange in strategy and more an attempt to conceal continuing tensions not only between US andAfrican interests, but also between the US military and other humanitarian and developmentactors operating on the continent. I also present evidence of the contingency of AFRICOM’siiistrategic discourses and practices. African understandings of historical (and continuing) Northern dispossession present challenges for AFRICOM in the form of distrustful African media, leaders and publics; however, official and strategic justifications for AFRICOM have been able to rely heavily on both Africanist tropes and the relative invisibility of the African continent – in addition to newer liberal discourses of ‘humanitarian’ warfare – to present a vision of AFRICOM as mutually beneficial. AFRICOM’s involvement in the Ebola response serves as a case study of these tensions.

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The search for solidarity in the United States-Mexico borderlands/occupied O'odham territory (2018)

Qualitative research in Tucson, Arizona reveals limitations to coalition building based on activists’ distinct positions and experiences, as well as their disparate understandings of the meaning of solidarity. Nonetheless, in the context of increasing militarization in the United States-Mexico borderlands/occupied O’odham territory, there is a history of coalition building to challenge the violence, at times halting the U.S. state’s plans for further militarization. Thus, it is timely to consider the (im)possibilities for solidarity amongst activist groups confronting militarization. To do so, I first examine the analysis and strategies put forward by immigrants’ rights groups, incorporating literature related to racial capitalism and imperialism. Next, I consider critiques and strategies presented by a Palestine/occupied O’odham land solidarity group, integrating scholarship on settler colonialism and indigenous resistance. Finally, I discuss challenges to and potentials for coalition building in the region based on listening to activists’ varying sentiments related to solidarity. I posit that a form of solidarity that requires finding a common struggle, despite the recognition of different experiences, may reify settler colonial ways of relating. I argue a decolonial framework may foster a form of solidarity that does not require a search for one form of oppression that is “common” to all, but rather embraces a form of solidarity that strives to listen to and learn from multiple subject positions. Additionally, a form of solidarity that embraces analyses born out of listening to various (hi)stories of those affected by the ongoing militarization in the region provides a nuanced understanding of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands/occupied O’odham territory. Such an understanding highlights the complexity and multiple technologies of power at play in the U.S. settler colonial capitalist nation, as well as various forms of ongoing resistance to oppression.

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Spaces of cultural resistance : underground libraries in the U.S.Southwest (2015)

In 2012, Arizona state government dismantled the Mexican-American Studies (MAS)program in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) after a long political fight against the local community. In the process, the books used by the program were boxed and removed from Tucson classrooms. In the aftermath, a group of ‘Underground Libraries’ emerged with the intention to house the banned literature and assure it remained available to the affected community. Starting with the premise that education itself is a site of creation, dissemination and contestation of identity and belonging, my research looks at the role of the Underground Libraries as spaces of cultural resistance in the face of oppressive legislation. In particular, attention is given to the way in which spaces of resistance originate, multiply, and connect in order to create imagined geographies of belonging that can challenge the effects of cultural oppression at a local and regional level.

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Rainbow flags and body bags : violence, terror, pride and everyday resistance in Northeastern Mexico (2014)

In 2006, Mexico’s then president, Felipe Calderón, declared a war on organized crime, popularly referred to now as a ‘drug war’, that has resulted in the deaths and disappearances of hundreds-of-thousands of people. In spite of this ongoing hardship and tragedy, in 2012 and 2013, the Northeastern border city of Esperanza (pseudonym) bore witness to the region’s first pride march. Why now? Why, in this moment of violence and conflict throughout the city and the region, have members of gender and sexual minority (GSM) communities in Esperanza decided to march for rights and recognition? What does this say about pride and other forms of GSM activisms in spaces of violent conflict? In this thesis, as I explore these questions, I recount a story about resistance and celebration of GSM life in the US/Mexico borderlands in a time of increasing fear, militarization, and death. The central argument I make here is that pride, as a form of activism and resistance, is variegated across space and time. That is, pride comes to mean different things in different places, and in those different places, it does different things. I demonstrate this by mounting three supporting arguments. First, I assert that state-directed violence has been a catalyst for GSM activism in Mexico in the past. I argue that the emergence of GSM activisms is rooted in times of violence and crisis that, like today in Esperanza, are not specifically directed at GSM communities, but more broadly within Mexican society. Next, I frame the contemporary violence in Mexico as a form of terror perpetrated by powerful state and non-state actors. Through the use of interviewee narratives and my own experiences, I argue that life in Esperanza is being shattered by violence and terror. This shattering is both heart-wrenching and destructive, but is also potentially creative of the conditions for challenging the status quo and societal norms. Finally, I argue that in the violent spaces of Esperanza, GSM activisms are challenging hetero/cis-normativity and oppression, but they also become acts of everyday resistance and contestation of the violence and terror of the so-called ‘drug war’.

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Lessons from the canyon : Aboriginal engagement in the Enbridge Northern Gateway environmental assessment (2011)

This thesis examines the environmental assessment for the proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines project, focusing on Aboriginal concerns with the process. Northern Gateway is a highly contentious oil pipeline that would link the Tar Sands in Alberta to the BC coast in Kitimat, in an effort to ship Canadian crude to Asia. I focus on the extent and quality of First Nations’ participation in the EA and its meaningful acknowledgement of Aboriginal rights and ontologies. Environmental assessment in Canada has become an important space for the negotiation of Aboriginal rights though it was never intended as such and is wrought with criticism. I present this analysis within a post-colonial framework, grounded in political ecology, political ontology and posthumanism. It is important to understand the case of Northern Gateway in BC today within a broader analysis of a legacy of colonialism, and colonial relationships. To explore these issues, I center on the experience of one Aboriginal organization, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, in Smithers BC, which is publicly opposed to Northern Gateway.

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Expecting the sea : displacement and the environment on Sri Lanka's east coast (2010)

In this thesis, I explore the relationship between displacement and the environment on Sri Lanka’s East coast. In particular, I analyze the intersections between armed conflict, the 2004 tsunami, and climate change, and the ways they are enlisted to pose threats to impoverished people living on the coast. My tactic is following the ocean as an actor, employing a relational ontology. I bring posthumanist literature into conversation with social theory of the sea, as well as current literature on the scientific and social impacts of climate change. I also work with an understanding of uncertainty, partiality, and ethical complications at the foreground of my analysis. The empirics for my study are based on six weeks fieldwork in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. In the first chapter, I provide background on Sri Lanka’s unique situation, introduce the concept of “framing” with regards to environment and displacement debates as well as conflict, disaster, and climate change, and explain my theoretical inspirations. In the second chapter, I set the conditions for closely following the ocean, exploring the cultural and biological role of the sea and its specific meanings in Sri Lanka and during my research. The third chapter explores the implications of centering the ocean in a relational approach on Sri Lanka’s coast. I argue that the co-constitution of climate change and the 2004 tsunami becomes apparent when taking a relational perspective. Finally, I conclude my analysis in the fourth chapter, by revisiting concepts of vulnerability that I discussed in the first chapter with an approach that centers and values relationships between humans and nonhuman others. In this way, I posit an alternative framing that considers factors deemed ‘the environment’ as active participants in performances of displacement and resistance.

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Current Students & Alumni

This is a small sample of students and/or alumni that have been supervised by this researcher. It is not meant as a comprehensive list.
 

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