Unsettling Spring Health video still

Research and multimedia project, 2016-2017

Abstract

Studying the work of the Springs Stewardship Institute in Northern Arizona, this project considers how springs ecologists work within and against settler colonialism. First, I consider Flagstaff as a settler society, arguing that early settler military expeditions were formative in producing knowledge about and settler dispositions towards springs. Putting Aldo Leopold’s writings on land health in conversation with feminist and Indigenous scholarship, a relational definition of health can be found in springs’ scientific study. Boundaries between discourses on health are blurrier than one might think. Spring health is also political in its knowledge production and research practice. The frame of woven ecosystem, human, and more-than-human health posed by springs scientists is one that understands the world in place-based particularity and communication, implicating settler colonial manifestations and structural paradigms as drivers of springs’ degradation. Making kin, which requires personal and structural work of un-settling, can challenge settlers and scientists alike to recognize relational communicative reality and fulfill ethical obligations with the land, humans, and more-than-human others. Health, for springs and humans, is a vital concept that presents scientists, land managers, and residents with unsettling realities while offering possibilities for flourishing.