Windermere Basin, at the tip of Hamilton Harbour in Oniatarí:io / Niigani-gichigami (Lake Ontario), was once the most polluted body of water in North America. Today, thanks to a $20.6 million dollar rehabilitation effort, it has become Turtle Island’s largest man-made coastal wetland. Supposedly ‘healed,’ Windermere basin now boasts a hiking trail, bird houses, and wildflowers. Yet the belching steel industry smokestacks in the near distance, as well as the ‘no swimming’ signs, used condoms, tampon applicators, and crumpled water bottles on its foreshore, suggest that reports of repair may be overstated.
In an Anthropcenic context where contemporary waterways harbour so many of our dumped desires, this talk explores alternatives to the frame of ‘rehabilitation’: how else might we love and live with wounded bodies of water in the shadow of settler colonial petrocapitalism? Drawing on feminist, crip, decolonial and queer ecologies, I consider how Windermere Basin opens to a variety of queer intimacies that fall somewhere between irreparable damage, and purity or cure. I ask: how might the idea of ‘having bad sex with the earth,’ to quote Lindsay Kelley (2016), give us some clues for practising a different kind of multispecies and elemental erotics – perhaps bumbling and awkward, always risky and incomplete, but nonetheless attentive and full of care?
Astrida Neimanis is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney, on Gadigal land, in Australia. Often in collaboration with other artists, writers, and makers, her work examines water, weather, and bodies, from intersectional feminist perspectives. She is co-editor of Thinking with Water (MQUP 2013) and author of Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology (Bloomsbury 2017). She is also Associate Editor of Environmental Humanities and with Jennifer Mae Hamilton, co-organiser of the COMPOSTING feminisms and environmental humanities reading and research group.