chapter
22 Pages

TECHNOLOGICAL COLONIALISM AND THE POLITICS OF WATER

I begin with this theoretical summary because I want to offer in this paper a critical engagement around my own attention and learning about a complex and over-determined environmental struggle that contains a particular set of ‘counter’ discourses. Specifically, I am referring to the contemporary struggle for cultural, political and environmental rights being waged in public and legal forums by native Cree and Inuit communities in Northern Quebec. Positioning themselves as traditional stewards of the land, these communities are attempting to defend the land against flooding by a vast hydroelectric project begun in the 1970s-a project now entering a large second phase of construction within their territory. It is a struggle that has unravelled a complex braid of conflict between radically different knowledge systems and representations about land and territory, progress and survivability, rights and justice-the latter two couplets hitched to differing commitments of nationhood and its attendant cultural and political desires. My intention here is to critically describe different sets of linked discourses and political strategies as they clash over a real place/space-the 350,000 square kilometres of land in Northern Quebec on the east coast of James and Hudson Bays. This place/space is crisscrossed with representational struggles: what the land means in public discourse to the Cree and Inuit differs significantly from what it means to the state of Quebec and its hydro utility, HydroQuébec. It is a difference which will have real, material and historical implications for what may be done with the land and its ‘resources’ and by whom. It is also a difference that calls into question human and technological relations to and with the ‘environment’, ‘nature’, or the ‘earth’.