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Imagining Angels on the Gulf

Imagining Angels on the Gulf

(p.384) 20 Imagining Angels on the Gulf
Oil Culture
Ruth Salvaggio
University of Minnesota Press

This chapter theorizes a new mode of resonant imagery that might inspire imaginative engagements with the hidden social and ecological histories of oil extraction and spur the formation of a new sort of sensory engagement with the natural world that would displace the authoritative gaze of technological modernity. Drawing inspiration from powerful environmentalist icons of the twentieth century, including Rachel Carson’s famous evocation of a “silent spring” in her 1962 book Silent Spring, the chapter describes the catastrophic effects of oil culture in the span of a single century in places such as the Gulf of Mexico. It analyzes photographs of the oiled pelican in the post-Deepwater Horizon era to emphasize the history of exploitive and extractive economies all along the Gulf of Mexico and its river corridors. Carson’s image of a silent spring, devoid of birds and birdsong, incited the cultural imaginary in ways that few images have ever managed to do.

Keywords:   imagery, oil extraction, natural world, technological modernity, Rachel Carson, silent spring, oil culture, Gulf of Mexico, photographs, oiled pelican

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