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Hydrocolonial Affects: Suicide and the Somatechnics of Long-term Drinking Water Advisories in First Nations in Canada

Hydrocolonial Affects: Suicide and the Somatechnics of Long-term Drinking Water Advisories in... While most Canadians have access to potable drinking water, those without are overwhelmingly Indigenous people living on reserves, constituting a racialised form of water injustice. Suicide rates for First Nations are also disproportionate to the general population, but lessor known is the relationship of suicide in communities experiencing long-term drinking water advisories. In this paper, drawing on Indigenous feminist conceptualisations of affect, I consider the affective relationship between long-term water advisories, suicide, and hydrocolonialism. I argue that long-term drinking water advisories are a kind of somatechnic that elucidate the hydrocolonial and necropolitical states of exception that threaten and devalue Indigenous life. Under such somatechnics, I work with the analytic of felt theory, to understand the hydrocolonial affects at play in the prevalence of suicide in communities experiencing long-term water advisories. By making felt the necropolitical connections between bodies of water and the bodies of suicidal people, these affects upend dominant claims about suicide, and invite us towards more fulsome structural analyses of suicide, more agentic renderings of suicidal people, and more politically enlivened ways of addressing suicide. Finally, hydrocolonial affects invite consideration of the possibilities of care and resistance for human and older-than-human relations. In summary, this paper theorises the hydrocolonial affects produced by dead and dying water and suicidal people as a Somatechnics 13.2 (2023): 113–133 DOI: 10.3366/soma.2023.0403 © Jeffrey Ansloos. The online version of this article is published as Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits commer- cial use, distribution and reproduction provided the original work is cited. www.euppublishing.com/soma Somatechnics profound challenge to the settler colonial state, and an invitation to produce futures committed to liveability. Keywords: suicide; environment and health; Felt Theory; Indigenous Environmental Justice; water and mental health; Indigenous death and dying; Necropolitics. On June 19, 2022, the Neskantaga First Nation reached a staggering th milestone: their 10,000 day under a drinking water advisory. This marks twenty-seven years without access to drinkable water, making it the longest-running advisory of its kind in Canadian history. Yet, the water crisis at Neskantaga is not an isolated incident, but part of a broader story of water injustice affecting First Nations communities. As highlighted by Maura Hanrahan, Atanu Sarkar, and Amy Hudson (2016), Indigenous peoples in Canada ‘experience water insecurity on an extreme scale’ (270). While the majority of Canadians readily have access to clean drinking water, those deprived of this basic necessity are predominantly First Nations living on reserves. This disproportionate impact constitutes a racialised form of water injustice (Chambers 2018). A community is placed under a drinking water advisory ‘when water is known, suspected to be, or could potentially become unsafe for human consumption’ (Lucier et al. 2020: 2). As per Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC 2022), these advisories essentially serve as ‘public health protection messages about real or potential health risks’ (8), encompassing directives such as do not consume, do not use, and boil water. In 2015, Indigenous Services Canada reported seventy- seven long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities, a figure which surged to 105 by 2018 (ECCC 2022). An advisory is categorised as ‘long-term’ if it extends beyond one year. Currently, considering the sixty-two new advisories issued since 2018 and the 135 lifted since 2015, there remain thirty-two advisories in effect, impacting twenty-eight First Nations. The implications of water injustice are manifold, spanning environ- mental, social, economic, biological, and psychological impacts. The disproportionate influence of drinking water advisories on First Nations serves as ‘a stark indicator of the enormous and enduring disparities between Indigenous and settler populations in contemporary Canada’ (Perry 2020: 8). This injustice is an all too normalised reality for First Nations throughout Canada. As Wayne Moonias, the current Chief of Neskantaga, has poignantly remarked, ‘it is very disheartening to see … especially young kids getting rashes, getting sores, being bandaged up when they are exposed to the untreatable water that comes into their homes’ (Kitching 2022). 114 Hydrocolonial Affects Under the drinking water advisory, Neskantaga’s residents have had to depend on water hauled from a reverse osmosis system for drinking water – a temporary measure put in place in 1995, after the govern- ment’s failure to overhaul the community’s water filtration system. Devastatingly, in the summer of 2022, a mother discovered that her fourteen-year-old child had died by suicide at the reverse osmosis site while she was out collecting water (Kitching 2022). Chris Moonias, former Chief of Neskantaga, conveyed to the media that ‘the trauma in the community was caused by years of living without clean water’ (Kitching 2022). Reminding us that ‘water does not exist in the abstract’ (Chen, MacLeod and Neimanis 2013: 8), here, suicide is positioned as the traumatic materiality of water insecurity. Indeed, like suicide, water ‘must take up a body or place … somewhere, sometime, somehow. All water [insecurity] is situated’ (8). Indeed, for as long as Neskantaga water crisis has existed, it has been concurrently dealing with another longstanding crisis: high rates of suicide. In 2012, emergency response coordinators estimated that there were about ten suicide attempts per month. By 2013, this figure had escalated to over thirty attempts in the community of roughly 300 residents (Porter 2013). On April 17, 2013, a formal state of emergency was declared after seven people died by suicide within less than four months (CBC News 2013). By April 2016, it was reported that Neskantaga had witnessed an alarming peak of eleven suicide attempts in a single day (Porter 2016). More recently, between March and August 2020, ten individuals died by suicide (Mamakwa 2020). Like water, suicide is also situated in a complex constellation of rela- tions. At different intervals, the community’s leadership has explicitly linked these deaths to one feature of this complexity: the persistent water crisis in the community (Peerla, Scott, and Cowen 2020; Porter 2016). Since the early 1970s, suicide rates among First Nations have been reported as significantly disproportionate to the general population. However, less known is the concurrent prevalence of suicide in First Nations experiencing drinking water advisories and the importance this may hold. Recently, Jeffrey Ansloos and Annelies Cooper (2023) demon- strated that between 2011–2016 suicide has occurred at a higher proportion in First Nations impacted by long-term water advisories in Ontario, Canada, suggestive of the idea that ‘watery relations’ including water injustice, are implicated in the situatedness of suicide (Chen, MacLeod, and Neimanis 2013: 8). Despite evidence of the complex materiality of suicide, and the reality that suicide has ‘represented multifarious meanings across temporal, social, cultural, and disciplinary boundaries’, the study of and 115 Somatechnics policy responses to suicide – particularly in the context of Indigenous communities – has been largely shaped by the contemporary field of suicidology (Ansloos and Peltier 2022: 102). Saartje Tack (2022) has proposed that suicidology should be analysed as a somatechnic, inves- tigating how it is implicated ‘in in/trans/forming both the body of the suicidal person and that of the expert suicide researcher as particular kinds of subjects’ (14). Typically, the suicidal person is often in/trans/formed as vulnerable, mentally ill, and at-risk, and the suicidologist as a rational psychiatric intervener. As Banu Bargu (2014) has pointed out, the problem with this kind of explanation, in addition to the pejorative way in that it frames suicidal people, is that ‘it tends to lose sight of the political context’ in which such deaths take place, and ‘the conditions that give rise to them’ (112). Drawing on Susan Stryker and Nikki Sullivan’s (2009) conception of somatechnics as the ‘relation between bodies of flesh, bodies [of] knowledge, and bodies politic’ (50), Tack’s (2022) critique of the exclu- sionary dynamics of the somatechnics of suicidology invite ‘different ways of understanding and experiencing suicide’ (31). As Jennifer White and Michael J. Kral (2014) have suggested, new approaches are needed to understand ‘the complex relational processes and sociopolitical con- ditions that may make some lives more “unlivable” than others’ (123). Extending somatechnics to understand suicide in First Nations communities, what if, in addition to bodies of flesh, of knowledge, and of bodies politic, we also considered bodies of water? How might account- ing for the somatechnics of drinking water advisories, particularly in First Nations disproportionately affected by suicide, in/trans/form how we understand and respond to the challenge of life under settler colonialism? Hydrological dimensions of suicide and their affective dimensions are virtually non-existent in suicide and environmental research. However, as Dian Million (2009) writes, such absences are not because these relations do not exist, but because, as Indigenous peoples, ‘we feel our histories,’ and such feelings offer ‘a more complex telling’ of reality than is typically recognised in colonial narratives and scientific truths (54). In describing the violence of Manitoba Hydro’s devastating impact on Cree homelands and waters, Robert Spence, a citizen of Tataskweyak Cree Nation, elucidates this very dynamic: My soul hurts and is dying. I feel as though I am mourning every day while being on the lake and the land … To live the life we as First Nations people being as connected to the water and the land as we are … you killed the water. You killed the fish. You killed the Indian. (Craft and Blakley 2022: 91) 116 Hydrocolonial Affects By creating space for affective knowledges such as these, we open up opportunities to consider the complex and interconnected issues of suicide, such as environmental and hydrological dimensions of settler colonialism (Ansloos and Peltier 2022). In the following pages I explore how long-term drinking water advisories are not merely an emblematic or symbolic feature of colonial regimes, but also operate as a somatechnic intersecting with suicidality and suicidal deaths. Centring an Indigenous feminist approach to affect, I work with Million’s (2009) analytic of felt theory to consider how we might understand suicidality as an affective entanglement of social relations between Indigenous peoples, water, and the settler-colonial state – an assemblage I call hydrocolonial affects. I consider how hydro- colonial affects, like all felt theories, upend hegemonic understandings of suicide, and make viscerally known new knowledges about living and dying under hydrological technologies of colonialism. And while I focus on water advisories in this research, indeed, a wide range of hydrocolonial projects may be intersecting with suicide from hydro dams to wastewater systems, to corporate irrigation systems. I conclude by reflec- ting on what hydrocolonial affects in the context of long-term drinking water advisories might teach us about developing more relational approaches to suicide and water. The situation in Neskantaga is complex and it is a specific context I return to throughout this paper. While attending to the co-occurrence of suicide and long-term drinking water advisories in Neskantaga and other First Nations, I also critique the limitations of prevailing research on suicide. In doing so, I do not aim to diminish the valuable aspects of these approaches, but rather to unearth what is often obscured in much contemporary suicidology: felt theories of suicide. My aim in this paper is not to homogenise or flatten the perspective and experiences of any First Nation, nor of any one community member. When analysing specific incidents, I have tried to frame my arguments in a manner that allows for multiple interpretations. Suicide research presents a unique ethical challenge as we are unable to ask people who have died about how they feel about our interpretations of their actions. I have endeavoured to discuss the deaths of Indigenous people from the standpoint that death can offer some important insights about lived experience. Countering the tendency of research to propagate harm and discourses of damage in Indigenous communities (Tuck 2009), I have tried to speak of suicidal people in ways that honour their agency. I also refer to and cite public statements made by some residents of Neskantaga regarding these issues. 117 Somatechnics What is unfolding in Neskantaga echoes what is happening in other First Nations across Canada, including in my own territory. While I do not seek to construct a universal theory, I do contemplate the inter- connections between these issues and across contexts. I believe that paying attention to the felt theories of Indigenous peoples and of waters points us towards broader questions of liveability, for human and other/more/older than human life. Indigenous Feminism and Felt Dimensions of Somatechnics While the role of affect has widely shaped feminist, queer, sociological, psychological, philosophical, and political scholarship, this paper takes as its starting point the critical importance of Indigenous feminist con- tributions to theorisations of affect. As Ansloos and Shanna Peltier (2022) have argued, the conceptual, methodological, and ethical contri- butions of Indigenous feminist studies are vital to building theory that is both informed by the structural context of suicide, as well as derived from Indigenous peoples’ relationships with lands and waters. Such approaches help to build theory that is relevant to Indigenous peoples’ material concerns. In this paper, specifically, I emphasise Indigenous feminist theorisations of affect to gain a more nuanced understanding of how the somatechnics of drinking water advisories might feel to some Indigenous people. The term ‘felt theory’, coined by Million (2009), has surfaced as a powerful analytic tool within Indigenous feminist studies. Through this concept, Million endeavoured to draw attention to ‘the impact of Canadian First Nation women’s first-person and experiential narrative’ as an intervention on ‘white, mostly male mainstream scholarship’ (54). Million underscores how Indigenous women’s activism has made use of discursive tools emerging through therapeutic modalities, especially those with resonance with cultural traditions of Indigenous peoples, to narrate lived and living experiences of sexualised and colonial violence. Personal narrative and witnessing are some of the vital modes of liberation where ‘women and men who chose to speak their experi- ence often revealed social distress that has been equated with individual pathology’ (56). Million highlights that these narrations, freeing as they may be in giving voice to experiences of social distress, are ‘neither emotionally easy nor communally acceptable … to “tell”’ (56). As Indigenous women began to write, they began to say things that were not only difficult, but ‘politically unspeakable’ (57) about the intimately felt dimensions of structural violence in both public and private spheres of Indigenous life. These testimonies are what Million calls felt theories, 118 Hydrocolonial Affects where consciously and/or unconsciously, Indigenous people ‘under- stood their experience of individual and communal experiences of pain as a point of analysis’ (71). Disentangling affect from the privatising grasp of psychotherapies popularised in the late twentieth century, Million has shown that felt theories serve a vital public purpose of building power to re/address structural violence. Power is built because feelings can challenge and upend dominant claims about Indigenous peoples’ experiences, particularly those made by governments, academics, and ‘so called’ experts. These alternative histories offer ‘important projections about what is happening in our lives’ (61). Like felt theory, the study of somatechnics is concerned with understanding the social relations between bodies: biological, techno- logical, political, and otherwise. This assemblage of relationships is mutually interdependent. Somatechnics represents the ‘mutual enflesh- ment of technologies and technologization of embodied subjectivities’ (Sullivan and Murray 2009: xi). It is that which ‘bind[s] us and the social world together’ (xi). Although general conceptions of somatechnics typically incorporate affect, when applied to certain social relations that knowledge becomes opaque and difficult to access. For example, Tack (2022) contends that suicidality is often only legible as the product of mental illness, which, as I argue below, forecloses on a much broader conception of suicidal affect. Certain suicide research acknowledges the role of structural violence in the etiology of suicide, including experiences such as discrimination or colonialism (Kumar and Tjepkema 2019). However, these factors are framed as ‘social determinants of health’ related to suicide, and given their distal nature, there is a tendency to treat them as abstract (Nelson and Wilson 2017) and unfelt. Additionally, suicide prevention research remains preoccupied by proximal factors. The small body of work that seeks to expand these interventions to address social determinants often emphasises issues like the accessibility of mental health services. Although these responses are beneficial in their own right, they can reinforce the assumption that mental health is the most critical factor to address, thus implying that the most vital intervention targets are those aimed at psychopathology symptom reduction – the same individualising frames that a ‘social determinants’ lens is supposed to complicate. These tendencies in suicide prevention research result in an emphasis on psychiatric intervention, which overlooks the struc- tural factors implicated in suicide and suicidality in First Nations communities. Such exclusions occur because suicidal affects produce a 119 Somatechnics somatechnical threat, perceived as ‘risky to the enterprise of colonial society and … troubling the practice of [suicide] prevention.’ (Ansloos and Peltier 2022, 113). However, what if structural factors, such as prolonged drinking water advisories, are central to the why of suicide? When it comes to access to clean drinkable water, affect is rarely given consideration at all. Ontological claims about water are largely ignored or diminished to the anthropological category of ‘cultural’ in both suicidology and environmental scholarship. As a counterpoint, felt theory can offer us an alternative understanding of the affective dimen- sions of drinking water advisories in First Nations communities. This perspective could profoundly disrupt and unsettle what we know about life and death under colonialism. The Somatechnics of Drinking Water Advisories: On Hydrocolonialism and Necropolitics If, as Patrick Wolfe (2006) suggests, ‘territoriality is settler colonialism’s specific, irreducible element’ (388), then what is the status of water? As Emma Colven (2021) has highlighted, ‘water possesses many paradox- ical characteristics’: it is framed as ‘essential to life’ by some, and ‘a resource and commodity’ by others (85). Although these interpretations might be relegated to linguistic or cultural difference, it is clear that ‘water is [often forcibly] enrolled in territorializing the state’ (85). Therefore, it is crucial to analyse how water is implicated within colonial regimes and their somatechnics. Mark Watson (2022) explains that ‘hydrocolonialism is a dimension of settler colonialism that is deeply woven into the history of Canada,’ involving ‘the specific dispossession of Indigenous peoples and the denial of water rights’ (199, 200). This is evident in historical and contemporary settler colonial nation- states, where bodies of water become ‘racially marked and politically charged site[s]’ that play a ‘historical and continuing role in defining relations between settler and [the] occupied’ (Perera and Pugliese 2011a: 68). We must consider, ‘what does history look like when we begin with, and return to, water?’ (Perry 2020: 19). By focusing on the somatechnics of water, we can start by reflecting on how, during early colonial contact in North America, oceans, rivers, and lakes were the first bodies upon which land was surveyed and targeted for occupation by Europeans. Indeed, as Cecilia Chen, Janine MacLeod, and Astrida Neimanis (2013) note, ‘the achievement of domination over watercourses (however temporary) coincides with an intensification of social domination’ (6). Refigured as pathways and means of conquest, bodies of water were 120 Hydrocolonial Affects claimed by European military vessels for strategic military advantage for the entrenchment of the nascent colonies. With the rise of the Canadian state, water became increasing subject to extraction and commodifica- tion through fishing and hunting industries. It became more commer- cialised, disrupting the balance of entire ecosystems. By the twentieth century, infrastructural control and industrial uses of water became a central means of generating capital in Canada through hydroelectricity, agribusiness, forestry, and through mining. As Joseph Pugliese (2023) has indicated, ‘water, in this settler context, is instrumentalized as one more resource to be exploited and exhausted through operations of racialized-extractive capitalism’ (30). Because of these transformations, bodies of water have also become marked and used as sites of disposal and discard for industrial and other forms of pollution, resulting in increased rates of fresh waters that are contaminated. Reflecting with Traci Brynne Voyles (2015) on how ‘wastelands of many kinds are constituted through racial and spatial politics that render certain bodies and landscapes pollutable’ (10), hydrocolonial histories of Canada reveal how violence against bodies of water is linked to violence against Indigenous peoples’ bodies. Indeed, as Watson (2022) points out, due to the abysmal ways that water is governed by the Canadian state, many First Nations in northern Canada are in ‘a region, ironically, with perhaps more fresh water per capita than anywhere else in the world,’ and yet they ‘must purchase bottled water imported from thousands of miles away’ (201). So-called ‘water security’ now exists as a racialised privilege that is governed by the state, one that is by no means guaranteed for Indigenous peoples. This racialised somatechnical arrangement is clearest when one examines long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations. In Canada, over ninety percent of drinking water advisories are issued due to infrastructural issues and environmental conditions (ECCC 2022: 6). Given the prevalence of long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations, it is important to consider a more pernicious meaning of the drinking water advisory: it is a representation of the profound infrastructural violence experienced by Indigenous commu- nities. Contrary to assumptions that they are benevolent acts of state care and public health concern, long term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities are a feature of necropolitical governance of Indigenous peoples’ lives by the settler colonial state. The frequency and extended nature of such advisories on First Nations reserves function as a slow violence (Mbembe 2019), producing unremitting conditions of debility and unliveability. In such contexts, bodies of water, watersheds, the infrastructure necessary to drink from them, and the people who 121 Somatechnics drink water, are all ‘somatechnically interpenetrated by the violence of the state’ (Perera and Pugliese 2011b: 2). Colonial technologies of occupation, commodification, pollution, and neglect reduce Indigenous peoples and waters to ‘expendable bod[ies] who’s right to be is fundamentally placed in question’ (2). While Canada does not constitutionally enshrine water rights, nor human rights to water, the health justification of the drinking water advisory ironically elucidates a prima facie existence of such rights. In a sense, the long-term drinking water advisory represents a state of exception (Agamben 2005), where access to drinking water is suspended in communities in the name of health, always accompanied by a com- mitment to remediation in the future. Of course, such states of exception would be widely untenable outside of their maintenance in First Nations. For example, Walkertown, a small white majority town in northern Ontario experienced an E. coli outbreak in their water source in 2000, and it was swiftly remediated and resulted in increased regulation. But such decisive action and remediation are politicised as too costly and/or unsustainable for First Nations, and these temporary states of exception become increasingly permanent. Such inaction occurs in a global context of deregulation and ever-increasing extractive interest in resources on Indigenous peoples’ territories. As such, the necropolitical function of these states of exception is becoming increasingly visible. It is one of a range of necro- political ‘modalities of harm making … manifesting through structural, symbolic, and bodily modes of injury’ (Lesutis 2022: 3). Whether as a justification for forced relocation of reserves, continued third party management of First Nations, or in the use of water and water infrastructure as a bargaining tool in advancement of resource projects, the bodies subjected to the long-term drinking water advisory are a geography ‘marked by the territorial (that is spatial, racial, epistemic) demarcations that hold in place relations between colonized and colonizer’ (Perera and Pugliese 2011a: 65). If water is life, then long- term drinking water advisories represent the structural devaluation of Indigenous peoples’ lives and hold profound affective significance. Hydrocolonial Affects: On Felt Theories of Suicidality under Drinking Water Advisories As initially noted in this paper, it is critical to consider the felt theories of Indigenous peoples subjected to the somatechnics of the long-term drinking water advisory, particularly as they related to what is made known by suicidality. According to Million’s (2009) felt theory, affect 122 Hydrocolonial Affects offers the potential to unsettle dominant claims, in this case made about Indigenous lives and deaths, by providing a sensory account of unlive- ability under unrelenting conditions of structural violence. By under- standing suicide as embodied theorisation, beyond the somatechnics of contemporary suicidology, we might consider alternative meanings of suicide and responses to suicide. In the context of First Nations affected by long-term drinking water advisories, I label such theorisations as hydrocolonial affects. This analytic is employed to unsettle the dominance of psychocentric renderings of suicidality, instead offering that suicid- ality is entangled in complex hydrological relations, including the bodies politics of settler colonialism. In other words, hydrocolonial affects suggest that suicide is a kind of critical and devastating knowledge, one that lucidly exposes the somatechnical and necropolitical governance of water in First Nations. This is similar to what Ann Cvetkovich (2012) has proposed about depression as a public feeling: we can come to see embodied experiences of depression as a sensory politic and a reflection of lives under varied forms of structural violence. The ongoing necropolitical states of exception in First Nations represent a profound form of structural violence, and the co-occurrence of suicide in these communities underscores the fact that this violence is so debilitating and dehumanising that it can engender a desire to die or no longer live. Hydrocolonial affects ask us to acknowledge that living in a world of brutal colonial violence – one where you are denied the dignity and right to access to drinkable water – are material circumstances where feelings of suicidality make sense. This is a radical stance against the dominant paradigm of contemporary suicidology, which frames suicid- ality as the result of a distorted cognitive perceptions of psychologically ill individuals and, therefore, advocates for therapeutic interventions that remediate disordered thoughts and cease self-harming behaviour. Instead, hydrocolonial affects socialise and situate the feeling of suici- dality, which contemporary suicidology too often individuates. These felt theories insist that suicidality reflects the somatechnical configuration of the world, and narrate ‘colonialism as it is felt by those whose experience it is’ (Million 2009: 58). As a response to living under the violence of prolonged conditions of water injustice, suicide can be understood as part of how individuals make sense of ‘their lives and identities’ (Jaworski 2020: 596). As a political indictment, hydrocolonial affects make visible that under hydrocolonial structural conditions, suicide is rendered a ‘making sense.’ Returning to the recent suicide in Neskantaga, what alternative claims about life for Indigenous peoples and waters in settler-colonial Canada can be learned by attending to hydrocolonial affect? We might 123 Somatechnics immediately recognise that suicidality in the community is informed in relationship to ongoing settler colonial governance, which allows the near-permanent state of exception that Neskantaga lives under with regards to water. With the backdrop of what Alexandre Baril (2020) has described as ‘the larger apparatus of biopower that deploys an injunction to live,’ we are invited to consider just how untenable life can become under hydrocolonialism when we reflect on where this death happened: the reverse osmosis water treatment system. The slow and persistent nature of hydrocolonial violence against Neskantaga’s residents is made visible by the fact that this young person had to recover water from a twenty-seven-year ‘temporary’ measure. Their death speaks to ways that bodies of people and bodies of water are interconnected sites of necropolitical violence. In First Nations where governments and industries have continually negated their responsibility to redress the debilitating hydrological conditions they have created; the presence of a reverse osmosis system might not symbolise relief. For some, it is a clear reminder of the persistent devaluing of Indigenous life and of the normalisation of racialised violence in Canadian society. As suggested by Achille Mbembe (2019), state-governed necropo- litical violence can take many forms, including ‘small doses of death’ where racialised peoples are forced to ‘live at the edge of life, or even on its outer edge’ (36–37). When we attend to this young person’s death as a form of theorisation, as a representation of a particular understanding of the world around them, we might start to see that having to collect ‘small doses’ of drinkable water with no sign of a permanent solution constitutes a form of slow violence. Water is life, but the reality for First Nations under long-term drinking water advisories is that life is only doled out in as much as can be poured into a plastic bottle. When accessed through means which reinscribe the devaluing of Indigenous life, under the necropolitics of hydrocolonialism, even small doses of life be felt as small doses of death. Herein lies another alternative claim. While predominant thinking in contemporary suicidology argues that a key factor in suicide is hope- lessness (Van Orden et al. 2010), what if the feeling that things will not get better in the future is not a misperception? To be skeptical and pessimistic about the political responsivity of the state to First Nations’ need for water justice, is to be grounded in an intimately felt knowledge of hydrocolonialism and the enduring failure of governments to value Indigenous life. Hopefulness rests on the idea of a positive future, where circumstances will improve. In the case of Neskantaga, we might consider that the young person who died at the reverse osmosis system lived their entire life under a drinking water advisory, and that they could 124 Hydrocolonial Affects not honestly claim that with regards to water, things would get better. In such circumstances, can we dismiss this hopelessness as the product of disordered thinking? In the late 1980s, predicated on the federal government’s promise of a ‘better life at a new location with improved services, including clean running water in each house’ (Stefanovich 2020), Neskantaga was moved fifteen kilometres to a new settlement. Access to drinkable water was to be achieved through a basic filter water treatment plant. Constructed between 1993 and 1995, the plant ultimately failed to render safe water supply, and, in a manner of days, a drinking water advisory was declared. It has remained in effect ever since. The hopelessness felt in First Nations affected by water injustice is not only justified, but is informed by an accurate perception of the circumstances of governmental neglect as they have unfolded. It is the expectation of hope in such contexts, and the pathologisation of hope’s absence, that is out of step with reality. If we resist the urge to pathologise suicide and respect the knowledge of suicidal people, we learn that suicidality sometimes emerges out of feeling that structural circum- stances are irretractable. These feelings function as a damning critique of hydrocolonialism and condemnation of those with the material power to alter it. In this sense, pessimism illuminates the lack of political responsivity that results in people making difficult assessments about their lives, and choices about whether to persist under necropolitical regimes. However, political responsiveness too often only materialises after a life has ended. Following the death of the young person in 2022, Neskantaga invited Patty Hajdu, the Minister for Indigenous Services, to visit the community. During her visit she committed that the government would to ‘continue to work together to ensure [the] community can more quickly access clean, safe drinking water’ (Indigenous Services Canada, 2022). It bears emphasising that the work of remediation of Neskantaga’s water is indeed achievable, and there are immediate steps that can be taken to enhance quality of life. For example, the government could immediately subsidise or guar- antee free access to clean bottled water as they work toward ensuring the community has sustainable access to clean drinking water. They could honour Neskantaga’s jurisdiction, halting unsupported regional devel- opment. But as history has demonstrated, Minister Hajdu is just one of long series agents of the state who have made such empty promises. For example, in 2016, then-Minister of Crown and Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennet, visited Neskantaga, committing that the government would ensure that the long-term drinking water advisory would be lifted, 125 Somatechnics and clean drinking water provided in two years. So, while an optimistic appraisal of ministerial commitments is tempting, there is little solace for many First Nations citizens, especially young people, who are feeling the weight of the somatechnics of the long-term drinking water advisory. When considered as a choreographed pattern of responses to states of emergency, one quickly understands the performative nature of these declarations. The Canadian government undoubtedly understands the relation- ship between infrastructural abandonment and suicide, as they have heard it first-hand time and time again. For example, in 2016, Charla Moonias, a resident of Neskantaga, speaking of her own experiences with suicidality explained during Minister Bennet’s visit, ‘the suicides, the water, the housing – everything is connected’ (Porter 2016). In 2019, the Government was sued in a class action lawsuit involving members of Neskantaga. The Government has since entered a court approved settlement which acknowledges that Canada failed to provide safe drinking water in some First Nation communities. The settlement expressed once again the government’s intention to take ‘all reasonable steps to ensure that First Nations communities have adequate access to clean, safe drinking water’ (Government of Canada 2022). While this is an important acknowledgement that speaks to the government’s own fiduciary failure, there remain few mechanisms that compel the Canadian government to act in the interests of First Nations. The settlement agreement does not imply that the same interests are shared. While class action lawsuits have been effective to document damages and provide some settlement, the terms of this settlement agreement only address a mere eight years of life under drinking water advisory (2013–2021) and are governed by heavy restrictions on the future legal actions of claimants. As such, these measures can ring hollow for many in Neskantaga still hauling water from the reverse osmosis system, which is now a site of unspeakable grief. Under such terms, those facing the heavy brunt of hydrocolonial violence are forced to navigate difficult feelings about their living. In recent decades, research and popular coverage on suicide has seen the reduction of criminalising discourse (e.g., ‘committing suicide’) and an uptake in non-criminalising framing (e.g., ‘died by suicide’). But an unintentional consequence of this shift is that the dimension of agency on the part of suicidal person is diminished. It may be disquieting, but under the disempowering and necropolitical conditions of hydrocolonialism, some people feel they have to, quite literally, take their own life. Not to be confused with an expression of nihilism, sometimes suicide demonstrates that, in the face of systems of 126 Hydrocolonial Affects oppression enacting slow necropolitical death, people exert sovereignty over the conditions for living even in their dying. Suicidality therefore does not flow from an inability to find meaning in living, but represents a devastating act of meaning making about the conditions of living. Such felt knowledge is incendiary and treated as a dangerous endorsement of death. But rather than an endorsement of death, what if suicide presents an invitation to shift our attention towards resisting the sadistic necropolitics of the hydrocolonial state? After all, it is these somatechnics that are actively constraining the possibilities for living for Indigenous peoples. This is not to say that Indigenous people are fated to suicide by somatechnical arrangements. Indeed, every day, there are people in First Nations under drinking water advisories that make the possibilities of living present for one another. As Billy-Ray Belcourt (2020) suggests ‘how any of us survive in a world always against us, against what we signify and make imaginable, is a sociologically significant act’ (134). Living under long term drinking water advisories produces a range of affects that have heavy bearing on what we feel is possible. Within suicidology, the question of agency ‘sometimes comes with a dismissal of situated political and cultural meanings of self-destructive acts’ (Broz and Münster 2016: 5). By overemphasising the psychopatho- logical etiology of suicidality, we fail to reckon with the broader structural conditions implicated in the act of suicide, or as Bargu (2014) has sug- gested, we operate unaware of ‘what mechanisms make the self-infliction of death appear as the only agency possible’ (104). In doing so, we fall prey to processes which pathologise responsibility and individualise redress. Hydrocolonial affects demand the opposite: that we honour the agency of people, even in their dying, and understand the collective nature of redress. In other words, attending to hydrocolonial affects compels the living to political action. As Ansloos and Peltier (2022) have suggested, ‘to make bodies inhabitable, one must make the world live- able’ (114). To this end, First Nations are ‘parched for justice’ (Perera and Pugliese 2011a), and as suicide makes clear, that justice concerns water. From Affects to Action: Addressing the Injustice of Hydrocolonialism Building on Million’s (2009) insistence that felt theories are crucial ‘to inform ourselves and our generations, to counter and intervene in a constantly morphing colonial system’ (55), I want to conclude by reflec- ting on what hydrocolonial affects demand in terms of redressing 127 Somatechnics colonial violence. Like all felt theories, suicides represent ‘significant political interventions or counterhegemonic moves’ (Million 2008: 268). As an instructive theorisation of the conditions of life, I have shown that suicide demonstrates the affective consequences of long-term drinking water advisories. But here I want to consider how hydrocolonial affects can be witnessed as individual acts of resistance, as well as inform collective acts by those of us who remain alive in the world. Suicidal deaths in many First Nations lay bare what is at stake in the continuation of the current hydrocolonial regime: that self-inflicted death can sometimes feel like the only degree of self-determination afforded to Indigenous peoples in the world as it is. For the living, the same political freedom that animates such desperate measures can help orient action for making the world liveable and bodies inhabitable. As Jeff Corntassel (2012) urges, self-determination is born out of the ‘the courage and imagination to envision life beyond the state’ (89). What is at stake is sovereignty. Sovereignty of bodies can be expressed diversely, but such acts are always concerned with freedom. Whether it is liberation in death from being perpetually somatechnically in/trans/formed by necropolitical violence, or ‘to become otherwise in the aftermath’ (Murphy 2017a) of the nation state, what ought to matter for the living are creating changes that facilitate and proliferate ways of living well and free lives within and beyond hydrocolonialism. There is no universal approach to dismantling the necropolitical violence of colonialism in all First Nations. But hydrocolonial affects expressed through suicide in communities like Neskantaga make clear that the prevention of suicidal death is tethered to addressing water injustice. To reduce access to drinkable water to yet another ‘social determinant of health’ is a crude understatement: water justice is a necessary dimension of suicide prevention. While felt theories do not necessarily provide a roadmap for the living, such affects do offer us wisdom in their condemnation of conditions of unliveability. Action should be characterised by focus on strategies which enhance the conditions for First Nations sovereignty over water, and indeed our lives. Such strategies will in turn produce new hydrological relations more amenable to living. I am interested here in what M. Murphy (2017b) has described as the ‘alter-concepts of care and responsibility … that simultaneously aim at world-building and dismantlement’ (496–497). Attending to felt theories demands that we dismantle the somatechnics of long-term water advisories while also effecting/affecting other ways of being in relationship to one another. This paper has sketched the possibilities for existence and resis- tance that are produced by engaging with Indigenous peoples’ suicide in 128 Hydrocolonial Affects contexts of water injustice as a kind of felt theory. Importantly, however, the challenge of engaging with felt theories also extends to water, which has implications for creating liveable worlds and inhabitable bodies. Of course, this requires different ways of thinking and speaking of and with water, and rests upon a set of assumptions about agency that challenge anthropocentrism. As Chen, MacLeod and Neimanis (2013) inquire, ‘can political agency be attributed to the work of water?’ (7). Against the framing of water as a non-living subject governed by the colonial state, Indigenous conceptions of water affirm that they are ‘agential more-than-human beings in their own right’ (Todd 2017: 106). To that I would add water feels, and indeed, have their own ‘stories to tell’ (Perry 2020: 8) Against a tendency to reduce the intimate relationalities of water to the domain of the metaphorical, ‘water is a matter of relation and connection’, and attending to this materiality is at least in part how we can begin to understand water feelings, especially hydrocolonial ones (Chen, MacLeod and Neimanis 2013: 12). Put another way, when across Indigenous philosophies, we claim that water is life, it is not a metaphor but a material claim about the struggle for water and of the life of water (Ansloos 2023). Like suicidal people, waters make materially known their experiences with, the conditions of, and resistances against colonialism. Whether in flooding, or in the shifting expressions of smell, colour, sheen, and composition, waters tell us something, if we pay attention. But what do we make of the felt theory of water contamination? And is it connected to the felt theories of suicidal people living under drinking water advisories? Of course, if material expressions of hydro- logical change are demonstrative of water feelings, they must also be considered in the wake of ‘anthropogenic intervention,’ bringing us back to ‘ecopolitics and the need for more accountability to the water we all share’ (Chen, MacLeod and Neimanis 2013: 12). In describing such changes, Pugliese (2023) reminds us that ‘aqua-political regimes of governmentality’ particularly those which permeate settler states, ‘unleash lethal effects that kill both bodies of water and the entities that depend on them for life’ (23). I suggest that water communicates these hydrological traumas, affectively. Due to hydrocolonialism, many bodies of freshwater, once vibrant with nourishing capacity and ‘aqueous abundance’ to sustain relations (Pugliese 2023: 25), including humans, have over time come to express hydrocolonial affects which speak of water violations, hydrological trauma, and infringements on waters’ ability to care and be in good relations. As humans, we often perceive such affects as toxic, lethally risky, and threatening to humans. Not 129 Somatechnics dissimilar to the treatment of both suicide and suicidal people. But if we attend to such affects from the perspective of water, we might recognise that these water feelings are only deadly as a product of our collective failure to care for a broader web of relations, including hydrological ones. Under hydrocolonialism, these relations are always instrumenta- lised and depersonalised. Much like suicidality tells us about the struc- tural, water feelings expressed in hydrological change tell us about water’s social situatedness. Be it, ‘ongoing industrial pollution, megadam construction, massive groundwater extraction, and large-scale irrigation schemes,’ all these somatechnics affect water, and ‘re-choreograph rela- tions in harmful ways’ (Chen, MacLeod and Neimanis 2013: 12). We need new language for these hydrological feelings. I’m inter- ested here in the language of ‘necroresistance,’ where we might think of water feelings and the felt theories of suicidal people as connected ‘corporeal acts of insurgence’ of death and dying that reveal, commu- nicate with, and perform response to hydrocolonialism (Bargu 2014). Murphy (2017a) suggests that we might find this language by consider- ing of the ways that the condition of ‘altered living-being,’ is a shared condition between human, and other/more/older than human life. In hydrocolonialism, water and Indigenous people find themselves on death’s doorstep, together. Against the splintering of relations, often perpetuated within the assessment of environmental impacts for resource development and infrastructure, the hydrocolonial affects of both people and water, invite us to think in a manner that includes ‘interconnected ecosystems … [where] there is no geographical region without people connected to it’ and vice versa (Craft and Blakley 2022: 95). Within that ‘sense of enmeshed land and body entails affirming more consensual ways of being together’ (Murphy 2017b: 497). As Chen, MacLeod and Neimanis (2013) suggest, ‘if we are to be responsible to water – if we are to respond to … its articulations of kinship and its radical importance in the places we inhabit – then we are obliged to recognize’ (24). Hydrocolonial affects help us to recognise these mutual enfleshments of human and other/more/older than human life, and to understand what is materially at stake in forming ethical relations. Just as we mutually face the threat of annihilation together, we also must resist together. Indeed, as Pugliese (2023) reminds us, ‘it is water that animates and creates the very possibility of flesh … it constitutes the very conditions of possibility of the flesh of the water’ (26). Suicide prevention, as envisaged by suicidology, is far too narrow a political project. Its singular focus on the mitigation of the risk of human death obscures the structural conditions that render some life 130 Hydrocolonial Affects unliveable. Against this, hydrocolonial affects offer us a theory of change that is concerned with justice for all our relations, meaning the end of necropolitical conditions of long-term drinking water advisories and the creations of new conditions for living, for humans, and water. As Elizabeth McDermott and Katrina Roen (2016) have asked, ‘what can be done that might facilitate recognition, belonging, becoming and material safety, and that might encourage liveable lives?’ (149). In response we can say with certainty that there are no liveable lives, without water, and without water justice. Because water is life. References Agamben, Giorgio (2005), State of Exception, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. 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Hydrocolonial Affects: Suicide and the Somatechnics of Long-term Drinking Water Advisories in First Nations in Canada

Somatechnics , Volume 13 (2): 21 – Aug 1, 2023

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10.3366/soma.2023.0403
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Abstract

While most Canadians have access to potable drinking water, those without are overwhelmingly Indigenous people living on reserves, constituting a racialised form of water injustice. Suicide rates for First Nations are also disproportionate to the general population, but lessor known is the relationship of suicide in communities experiencing long-term drinking water advisories. In this paper, drawing on Indigenous feminist conceptualisations of affect, I consider the affective relationship between long-term water advisories, suicide, and hydrocolonialism. I argue that long-term drinking water advisories are a kind of somatechnic that elucidate the hydrocolonial and necropolitical states of exception that threaten and devalue Indigenous life. Under such somatechnics, I work with the analytic of felt theory, to understand the hydrocolonial affects at play in the prevalence of suicide in communities experiencing long-term water advisories. By making felt the necropolitical connections between bodies of water and the bodies of suicidal people, these affects upend dominant claims about suicide, and invite us towards more fulsome structural analyses of suicide, more agentic renderings of suicidal people, and more politically enlivened ways of addressing suicide. Finally, hydrocolonial affects invite consideration of the possibilities of care and resistance for human and older-than-human relations. In summary, this paper theorises the hydrocolonial affects produced by dead and dying water and suicidal people as a Somatechnics 13.2 (2023): 113–133 DOI: 10.3366/soma.2023.0403 © Jeffrey Ansloos. The online version of this article is published as Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits commer- cial use, distribution and reproduction provided the original work is cited. www.euppublishing.com/soma Somatechnics profound challenge to the settler colonial state, and an invitation to produce futures committed to liveability. Keywords: suicide; environment and health; Felt Theory; Indigenous Environmental Justice; water and mental health; Indigenous death and dying; Necropolitics. On June 19, 2022, the Neskantaga First Nation reached a staggering th milestone: their 10,000 day under a drinking water advisory. This marks twenty-seven years without access to drinkable water, making it the longest-running advisory of its kind in Canadian history. Yet, the water crisis at Neskantaga is not an isolated incident, but part of a broader story of water injustice affecting First Nations communities. As highlighted by Maura Hanrahan, Atanu Sarkar, and Amy Hudson (2016), Indigenous peoples in Canada ‘experience water insecurity on an extreme scale’ (270). While the majority of Canadians readily have access to clean drinking water, those deprived of this basic necessity are predominantly First Nations living on reserves. This disproportionate impact constitutes a racialised form of water injustice (Chambers 2018). A community is placed under a drinking water advisory ‘when water is known, suspected to be, or could potentially become unsafe for human consumption’ (Lucier et al. 2020: 2). As per Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC 2022), these advisories essentially serve as ‘public health protection messages about real or potential health risks’ (8), encompassing directives such as do not consume, do not use, and boil water. In 2015, Indigenous Services Canada reported seventy- seven long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities, a figure which surged to 105 by 2018 (ECCC 2022). An advisory is categorised as ‘long-term’ if it extends beyond one year. Currently, considering the sixty-two new advisories issued since 2018 and the 135 lifted since 2015, there remain thirty-two advisories in effect, impacting twenty-eight First Nations. The implications of water injustice are manifold, spanning environ- mental, social, economic, biological, and psychological impacts. The disproportionate influence of drinking water advisories on First Nations serves as ‘a stark indicator of the enormous and enduring disparities between Indigenous and settler populations in contemporary Canada’ (Perry 2020: 8). This injustice is an all too normalised reality for First Nations throughout Canada. As Wayne Moonias, the current Chief of Neskantaga, has poignantly remarked, ‘it is very disheartening to see … especially young kids getting rashes, getting sores, being bandaged up when they are exposed to the untreatable water that comes into their homes’ (Kitching 2022). 114 Hydrocolonial Affects Under the drinking water advisory, Neskantaga’s residents have had to depend on water hauled from a reverse osmosis system for drinking water – a temporary measure put in place in 1995, after the govern- ment’s failure to overhaul the community’s water filtration system. Devastatingly, in the summer of 2022, a mother discovered that her fourteen-year-old child had died by suicide at the reverse osmosis site while she was out collecting water (Kitching 2022). Chris Moonias, former Chief of Neskantaga, conveyed to the media that ‘the trauma in the community was caused by years of living without clean water’ (Kitching 2022). Reminding us that ‘water does not exist in the abstract’ (Chen, MacLeod and Neimanis 2013: 8), here, suicide is positioned as the traumatic materiality of water insecurity. Indeed, like suicide, water ‘must take up a body or place … somewhere, sometime, somehow. All water [insecurity] is situated’ (8). Indeed, for as long as Neskantaga water crisis has existed, it has been concurrently dealing with another longstanding crisis: high rates of suicide. In 2012, emergency response coordinators estimated that there were about ten suicide attempts per month. By 2013, this figure had escalated to over thirty attempts in the community of roughly 300 residents (Porter 2013). On April 17, 2013, a formal state of emergency was declared after seven people died by suicide within less than four months (CBC News 2013). By April 2016, it was reported that Neskantaga had witnessed an alarming peak of eleven suicide attempts in a single day (Porter 2016). More recently, between March and August 2020, ten individuals died by suicide (Mamakwa 2020). Like water, suicide is also situated in a complex constellation of rela- tions. At different intervals, the community’s leadership has explicitly linked these deaths to one feature of this complexity: the persistent water crisis in the community (Peerla, Scott, and Cowen 2020; Porter 2016). Since the early 1970s, suicide rates among First Nations have been reported as significantly disproportionate to the general population. However, less known is the concurrent prevalence of suicide in First Nations experiencing drinking water advisories and the importance this may hold. Recently, Jeffrey Ansloos and Annelies Cooper (2023) demon- strated that between 2011–2016 suicide has occurred at a higher proportion in First Nations impacted by long-term water advisories in Ontario, Canada, suggestive of the idea that ‘watery relations’ including water injustice, are implicated in the situatedness of suicide (Chen, MacLeod, and Neimanis 2013: 8). Despite evidence of the complex materiality of suicide, and the reality that suicide has ‘represented multifarious meanings across temporal, social, cultural, and disciplinary boundaries’, the study of and 115 Somatechnics policy responses to suicide – particularly in the context of Indigenous communities – has been largely shaped by the contemporary field of suicidology (Ansloos and Peltier 2022: 102). Saartje Tack (2022) has proposed that suicidology should be analysed as a somatechnic, inves- tigating how it is implicated ‘in in/trans/forming both the body of the suicidal person and that of the expert suicide researcher as particular kinds of subjects’ (14). Typically, the suicidal person is often in/trans/formed as vulnerable, mentally ill, and at-risk, and the suicidologist as a rational psychiatric intervener. As Banu Bargu (2014) has pointed out, the problem with this kind of explanation, in addition to the pejorative way in that it frames suicidal people, is that ‘it tends to lose sight of the political context’ in which such deaths take place, and ‘the conditions that give rise to them’ (112). Drawing on Susan Stryker and Nikki Sullivan’s (2009) conception of somatechnics as the ‘relation between bodies of flesh, bodies [of] knowledge, and bodies politic’ (50), Tack’s (2022) critique of the exclu- sionary dynamics of the somatechnics of suicidology invite ‘different ways of understanding and experiencing suicide’ (31). As Jennifer White and Michael J. Kral (2014) have suggested, new approaches are needed to understand ‘the complex relational processes and sociopolitical con- ditions that may make some lives more “unlivable” than others’ (123). Extending somatechnics to understand suicide in First Nations communities, what if, in addition to bodies of flesh, of knowledge, and of bodies politic, we also considered bodies of water? How might account- ing for the somatechnics of drinking water advisories, particularly in First Nations disproportionately affected by suicide, in/trans/form how we understand and respond to the challenge of life under settler colonialism? Hydrological dimensions of suicide and their affective dimensions are virtually non-existent in suicide and environmental research. However, as Dian Million (2009) writes, such absences are not because these relations do not exist, but because, as Indigenous peoples, ‘we feel our histories,’ and such feelings offer ‘a more complex telling’ of reality than is typically recognised in colonial narratives and scientific truths (54). In describing the violence of Manitoba Hydro’s devastating impact on Cree homelands and waters, Robert Spence, a citizen of Tataskweyak Cree Nation, elucidates this very dynamic: My soul hurts and is dying. I feel as though I am mourning every day while being on the lake and the land … To live the life we as First Nations people being as connected to the water and the land as we are … you killed the water. You killed the fish. You killed the Indian. (Craft and Blakley 2022: 91) 116 Hydrocolonial Affects By creating space for affective knowledges such as these, we open up opportunities to consider the complex and interconnected issues of suicide, such as environmental and hydrological dimensions of settler colonialism (Ansloos and Peltier 2022). In the following pages I explore how long-term drinking water advisories are not merely an emblematic or symbolic feature of colonial regimes, but also operate as a somatechnic intersecting with suicidality and suicidal deaths. Centring an Indigenous feminist approach to affect, I work with Million’s (2009) analytic of felt theory to consider how we might understand suicidality as an affective entanglement of social relations between Indigenous peoples, water, and the settler-colonial state – an assemblage I call hydrocolonial affects. I consider how hydro- colonial affects, like all felt theories, upend hegemonic understandings of suicide, and make viscerally known new knowledges about living and dying under hydrological technologies of colonialism. And while I focus on water advisories in this research, indeed, a wide range of hydrocolonial projects may be intersecting with suicide from hydro dams to wastewater systems, to corporate irrigation systems. I conclude by reflec- ting on what hydrocolonial affects in the context of long-term drinking water advisories might teach us about developing more relational approaches to suicide and water. The situation in Neskantaga is complex and it is a specific context I return to throughout this paper. While attending to the co-occurrence of suicide and long-term drinking water advisories in Neskantaga and other First Nations, I also critique the limitations of prevailing research on suicide. In doing so, I do not aim to diminish the valuable aspects of these approaches, but rather to unearth what is often obscured in much contemporary suicidology: felt theories of suicide. My aim in this paper is not to homogenise or flatten the perspective and experiences of any First Nation, nor of any one community member. When analysing specific incidents, I have tried to frame my arguments in a manner that allows for multiple interpretations. Suicide research presents a unique ethical challenge as we are unable to ask people who have died about how they feel about our interpretations of their actions. I have endeavoured to discuss the deaths of Indigenous people from the standpoint that death can offer some important insights about lived experience. Countering the tendency of research to propagate harm and discourses of damage in Indigenous communities (Tuck 2009), I have tried to speak of suicidal people in ways that honour their agency. I also refer to and cite public statements made by some residents of Neskantaga regarding these issues. 117 Somatechnics What is unfolding in Neskantaga echoes what is happening in other First Nations across Canada, including in my own territory. While I do not seek to construct a universal theory, I do contemplate the inter- connections between these issues and across contexts. I believe that paying attention to the felt theories of Indigenous peoples and of waters points us towards broader questions of liveability, for human and other/more/older than human life. Indigenous Feminism and Felt Dimensions of Somatechnics While the role of affect has widely shaped feminist, queer, sociological, psychological, philosophical, and political scholarship, this paper takes as its starting point the critical importance of Indigenous feminist con- tributions to theorisations of affect. As Ansloos and Shanna Peltier (2022) have argued, the conceptual, methodological, and ethical contri- butions of Indigenous feminist studies are vital to building theory that is both informed by the structural context of suicide, as well as derived from Indigenous peoples’ relationships with lands and waters. Such approaches help to build theory that is relevant to Indigenous peoples’ material concerns. In this paper, specifically, I emphasise Indigenous feminist theorisations of affect to gain a more nuanced understanding of how the somatechnics of drinking water advisories might feel to some Indigenous people. The term ‘felt theory’, coined by Million (2009), has surfaced as a powerful analytic tool within Indigenous feminist studies. Through this concept, Million endeavoured to draw attention to ‘the impact of Canadian First Nation women’s first-person and experiential narrative’ as an intervention on ‘white, mostly male mainstream scholarship’ (54). Million underscores how Indigenous women’s activism has made use of discursive tools emerging through therapeutic modalities, especially those with resonance with cultural traditions of Indigenous peoples, to narrate lived and living experiences of sexualised and colonial violence. Personal narrative and witnessing are some of the vital modes of liberation where ‘women and men who chose to speak their experi- ence often revealed social distress that has been equated with individual pathology’ (56). Million highlights that these narrations, freeing as they may be in giving voice to experiences of social distress, are ‘neither emotionally easy nor communally acceptable … to “tell”’ (56). As Indigenous women began to write, they began to say things that were not only difficult, but ‘politically unspeakable’ (57) about the intimately felt dimensions of structural violence in both public and private spheres of Indigenous life. These testimonies are what Million calls felt theories, 118 Hydrocolonial Affects where consciously and/or unconsciously, Indigenous people ‘under- stood their experience of individual and communal experiences of pain as a point of analysis’ (71). Disentangling affect from the privatising grasp of psychotherapies popularised in the late twentieth century, Million has shown that felt theories serve a vital public purpose of building power to re/address structural violence. Power is built because feelings can challenge and upend dominant claims about Indigenous peoples’ experiences, particularly those made by governments, academics, and ‘so called’ experts. These alternative histories offer ‘important projections about what is happening in our lives’ (61). Like felt theory, the study of somatechnics is concerned with understanding the social relations between bodies: biological, techno- logical, political, and otherwise. This assemblage of relationships is mutually interdependent. Somatechnics represents the ‘mutual enflesh- ment of technologies and technologization of embodied subjectivities’ (Sullivan and Murray 2009: xi). It is that which ‘bind[s] us and the social world together’ (xi). Although general conceptions of somatechnics typically incorporate affect, when applied to certain social relations that knowledge becomes opaque and difficult to access. For example, Tack (2022) contends that suicidality is often only legible as the product of mental illness, which, as I argue below, forecloses on a much broader conception of suicidal affect. Certain suicide research acknowledges the role of structural violence in the etiology of suicide, including experiences such as discrimination or colonialism (Kumar and Tjepkema 2019). However, these factors are framed as ‘social determinants of health’ related to suicide, and given their distal nature, there is a tendency to treat them as abstract (Nelson and Wilson 2017) and unfelt. Additionally, suicide prevention research remains preoccupied by proximal factors. The small body of work that seeks to expand these interventions to address social determinants often emphasises issues like the accessibility of mental health services. Although these responses are beneficial in their own right, they can reinforce the assumption that mental health is the most critical factor to address, thus implying that the most vital intervention targets are those aimed at psychopathology symptom reduction – the same individualising frames that a ‘social determinants’ lens is supposed to complicate. These tendencies in suicide prevention research result in an emphasis on psychiatric intervention, which overlooks the struc- tural factors implicated in suicide and suicidality in First Nations communities. Such exclusions occur because suicidal affects produce a 119 Somatechnics somatechnical threat, perceived as ‘risky to the enterprise of colonial society and … troubling the practice of [suicide] prevention.’ (Ansloos and Peltier 2022, 113). However, what if structural factors, such as prolonged drinking water advisories, are central to the why of suicide? When it comes to access to clean drinkable water, affect is rarely given consideration at all. Ontological claims about water are largely ignored or diminished to the anthropological category of ‘cultural’ in both suicidology and environmental scholarship. As a counterpoint, felt theory can offer us an alternative understanding of the affective dimen- sions of drinking water advisories in First Nations communities. This perspective could profoundly disrupt and unsettle what we know about life and death under colonialism. The Somatechnics of Drinking Water Advisories: On Hydrocolonialism and Necropolitics If, as Patrick Wolfe (2006) suggests, ‘territoriality is settler colonialism’s specific, irreducible element’ (388), then what is the status of water? As Emma Colven (2021) has highlighted, ‘water possesses many paradox- ical characteristics’: it is framed as ‘essential to life’ by some, and ‘a resource and commodity’ by others (85). Although these interpretations might be relegated to linguistic or cultural difference, it is clear that ‘water is [often forcibly] enrolled in territorializing the state’ (85). Therefore, it is crucial to analyse how water is implicated within colonial regimes and their somatechnics. Mark Watson (2022) explains that ‘hydrocolonialism is a dimension of settler colonialism that is deeply woven into the history of Canada,’ involving ‘the specific dispossession of Indigenous peoples and the denial of water rights’ (199, 200). This is evident in historical and contemporary settler colonial nation- states, where bodies of water become ‘racially marked and politically charged site[s]’ that play a ‘historical and continuing role in defining relations between settler and [the] occupied’ (Perera and Pugliese 2011a: 68). We must consider, ‘what does history look like when we begin with, and return to, water?’ (Perry 2020: 19). By focusing on the somatechnics of water, we can start by reflecting on how, during early colonial contact in North America, oceans, rivers, and lakes were the first bodies upon which land was surveyed and targeted for occupation by Europeans. Indeed, as Cecilia Chen, Janine MacLeod, and Astrida Neimanis (2013) note, ‘the achievement of domination over watercourses (however temporary) coincides with an intensification of social domination’ (6). Refigured as pathways and means of conquest, bodies of water were 120 Hydrocolonial Affects claimed by European military vessels for strategic military advantage for the entrenchment of the nascent colonies. With the rise of the Canadian state, water became increasing subject to extraction and commodifica- tion through fishing and hunting industries. It became more commer- cialised, disrupting the balance of entire ecosystems. By the twentieth century, infrastructural control and industrial uses of water became a central means of generating capital in Canada through hydroelectricity, agribusiness, forestry, and through mining. As Joseph Pugliese (2023) has indicated, ‘water, in this settler context, is instrumentalized as one more resource to be exploited and exhausted through operations of racialized-extractive capitalism’ (30). Because of these transformations, bodies of water have also become marked and used as sites of disposal and discard for industrial and other forms of pollution, resulting in increased rates of fresh waters that are contaminated. Reflecting with Traci Brynne Voyles (2015) on how ‘wastelands of many kinds are constituted through racial and spatial politics that render certain bodies and landscapes pollutable’ (10), hydrocolonial histories of Canada reveal how violence against bodies of water is linked to violence against Indigenous peoples’ bodies. Indeed, as Watson (2022) points out, due to the abysmal ways that water is governed by the Canadian state, many First Nations in northern Canada are in ‘a region, ironically, with perhaps more fresh water per capita than anywhere else in the world,’ and yet they ‘must purchase bottled water imported from thousands of miles away’ (201). So-called ‘water security’ now exists as a racialised privilege that is governed by the state, one that is by no means guaranteed for Indigenous peoples. This racialised somatechnical arrangement is clearest when one examines long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations. In Canada, over ninety percent of drinking water advisories are issued due to infrastructural issues and environmental conditions (ECCC 2022: 6). Given the prevalence of long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations, it is important to consider a more pernicious meaning of the drinking water advisory: it is a representation of the profound infrastructural violence experienced by Indigenous commu- nities. Contrary to assumptions that they are benevolent acts of state care and public health concern, long term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities are a feature of necropolitical governance of Indigenous peoples’ lives by the settler colonial state. The frequency and extended nature of such advisories on First Nations reserves function as a slow violence (Mbembe 2019), producing unremitting conditions of debility and unliveability. In such contexts, bodies of water, watersheds, the infrastructure necessary to drink from them, and the people who 121 Somatechnics drink water, are all ‘somatechnically interpenetrated by the violence of the state’ (Perera and Pugliese 2011b: 2). Colonial technologies of occupation, commodification, pollution, and neglect reduce Indigenous peoples and waters to ‘expendable bod[ies] who’s right to be is fundamentally placed in question’ (2). While Canada does not constitutionally enshrine water rights, nor human rights to water, the health justification of the drinking water advisory ironically elucidates a prima facie existence of such rights. In a sense, the long-term drinking water advisory represents a state of exception (Agamben 2005), where access to drinking water is suspended in communities in the name of health, always accompanied by a com- mitment to remediation in the future. Of course, such states of exception would be widely untenable outside of their maintenance in First Nations. For example, Walkertown, a small white majority town in northern Ontario experienced an E. coli outbreak in their water source in 2000, and it was swiftly remediated and resulted in increased regulation. But such decisive action and remediation are politicised as too costly and/or unsustainable for First Nations, and these temporary states of exception become increasingly permanent. Such inaction occurs in a global context of deregulation and ever-increasing extractive interest in resources on Indigenous peoples’ territories. As such, the necropolitical function of these states of exception is becoming increasingly visible. It is one of a range of necro- political ‘modalities of harm making … manifesting through structural, symbolic, and bodily modes of injury’ (Lesutis 2022: 3). Whether as a justification for forced relocation of reserves, continued third party management of First Nations, or in the use of water and water infrastructure as a bargaining tool in advancement of resource projects, the bodies subjected to the long-term drinking water advisory are a geography ‘marked by the territorial (that is spatial, racial, epistemic) demarcations that hold in place relations between colonized and colonizer’ (Perera and Pugliese 2011a: 65). If water is life, then long- term drinking water advisories represent the structural devaluation of Indigenous peoples’ lives and hold profound affective significance. Hydrocolonial Affects: On Felt Theories of Suicidality under Drinking Water Advisories As initially noted in this paper, it is critical to consider the felt theories of Indigenous peoples subjected to the somatechnics of the long-term drinking water advisory, particularly as they related to what is made known by suicidality. According to Million’s (2009) felt theory, affect 122 Hydrocolonial Affects offers the potential to unsettle dominant claims, in this case made about Indigenous lives and deaths, by providing a sensory account of unlive- ability under unrelenting conditions of structural violence. By under- standing suicide as embodied theorisation, beyond the somatechnics of contemporary suicidology, we might consider alternative meanings of suicide and responses to suicide. In the context of First Nations affected by long-term drinking water advisories, I label such theorisations as hydrocolonial affects. This analytic is employed to unsettle the dominance of psychocentric renderings of suicidality, instead offering that suicid- ality is entangled in complex hydrological relations, including the bodies politics of settler colonialism. In other words, hydrocolonial affects suggest that suicide is a kind of critical and devastating knowledge, one that lucidly exposes the somatechnical and necropolitical governance of water in First Nations. This is similar to what Ann Cvetkovich (2012) has proposed about depression as a public feeling: we can come to see embodied experiences of depression as a sensory politic and a reflection of lives under varied forms of structural violence. The ongoing necropolitical states of exception in First Nations represent a profound form of structural violence, and the co-occurrence of suicide in these communities underscores the fact that this violence is so debilitating and dehumanising that it can engender a desire to die or no longer live. Hydrocolonial affects ask us to acknowledge that living in a world of brutal colonial violence – one where you are denied the dignity and right to access to drinkable water – are material circumstances where feelings of suicidality make sense. This is a radical stance against the dominant paradigm of contemporary suicidology, which frames suicid- ality as the result of a distorted cognitive perceptions of psychologically ill individuals and, therefore, advocates for therapeutic interventions that remediate disordered thoughts and cease self-harming behaviour. Instead, hydrocolonial affects socialise and situate the feeling of suici- dality, which contemporary suicidology too often individuates. These felt theories insist that suicidality reflects the somatechnical configuration of the world, and narrate ‘colonialism as it is felt by those whose experience it is’ (Million 2009: 58). As a response to living under the violence of prolonged conditions of water injustice, suicide can be understood as part of how individuals make sense of ‘their lives and identities’ (Jaworski 2020: 596). As a political indictment, hydrocolonial affects make visible that under hydrocolonial structural conditions, suicide is rendered a ‘making sense.’ Returning to the recent suicide in Neskantaga, what alternative claims about life for Indigenous peoples and waters in settler-colonial Canada can be learned by attending to hydrocolonial affect? We might 123 Somatechnics immediately recognise that suicidality in the community is informed in relationship to ongoing settler colonial governance, which allows the near-permanent state of exception that Neskantaga lives under with regards to water. With the backdrop of what Alexandre Baril (2020) has described as ‘the larger apparatus of biopower that deploys an injunction to live,’ we are invited to consider just how untenable life can become under hydrocolonialism when we reflect on where this death happened: the reverse osmosis water treatment system. The slow and persistent nature of hydrocolonial violence against Neskantaga’s residents is made visible by the fact that this young person had to recover water from a twenty-seven-year ‘temporary’ measure. Their death speaks to ways that bodies of people and bodies of water are interconnected sites of necropolitical violence. In First Nations where governments and industries have continually negated their responsibility to redress the debilitating hydrological conditions they have created; the presence of a reverse osmosis system might not symbolise relief. For some, it is a clear reminder of the persistent devaluing of Indigenous life and of the normalisation of racialised violence in Canadian society. As suggested by Achille Mbembe (2019), state-governed necropo- litical violence can take many forms, including ‘small doses of death’ where racialised peoples are forced to ‘live at the edge of life, or even on its outer edge’ (36–37). When we attend to this young person’s death as a form of theorisation, as a representation of a particular understanding of the world around them, we might start to see that having to collect ‘small doses’ of drinkable water with no sign of a permanent solution constitutes a form of slow violence. Water is life, but the reality for First Nations under long-term drinking water advisories is that life is only doled out in as much as can be poured into a plastic bottle. When accessed through means which reinscribe the devaluing of Indigenous life, under the necropolitics of hydrocolonialism, even small doses of life be felt as small doses of death. Herein lies another alternative claim. While predominant thinking in contemporary suicidology argues that a key factor in suicide is hope- lessness (Van Orden et al. 2010), what if the feeling that things will not get better in the future is not a misperception? To be skeptical and pessimistic about the political responsivity of the state to First Nations’ need for water justice, is to be grounded in an intimately felt knowledge of hydrocolonialism and the enduring failure of governments to value Indigenous life. Hopefulness rests on the idea of a positive future, where circumstances will improve. In the case of Neskantaga, we might consider that the young person who died at the reverse osmosis system lived their entire life under a drinking water advisory, and that they could 124 Hydrocolonial Affects not honestly claim that with regards to water, things would get better. In such circumstances, can we dismiss this hopelessness as the product of disordered thinking? In the late 1980s, predicated on the federal government’s promise of a ‘better life at a new location with improved services, including clean running water in each house’ (Stefanovich 2020), Neskantaga was moved fifteen kilometres to a new settlement. Access to drinkable water was to be achieved through a basic filter water treatment plant. Constructed between 1993 and 1995, the plant ultimately failed to render safe water supply, and, in a manner of days, a drinking water advisory was declared. It has remained in effect ever since. The hopelessness felt in First Nations affected by water injustice is not only justified, but is informed by an accurate perception of the circumstances of governmental neglect as they have unfolded. It is the expectation of hope in such contexts, and the pathologisation of hope’s absence, that is out of step with reality. If we resist the urge to pathologise suicide and respect the knowledge of suicidal people, we learn that suicidality sometimes emerges out of feeling that structural circum- stances are irretractable. These feelings function as a damning critique of hydrocolonialism and condemnation of those with the material power to alter it. In this sense, pessimism illuminates the lack of political responsivity that results in people making difficult assessments about their lives, and choices about whether to persist under necropolitical regimes. However, political responsiveness too often only materialises after a life has ended. Following the death of the young person in 2022, Neskantaga invited Patty Hajdu, the Minister for Indigenous Services, to visit the community. During her visit she committed that the government would to ‘continue to work together to ensure [the] community can more quickly access clean, safe drinking water’ (Indigenous Services Canada, 2022). It bears emphasising that the work of remediation of Neskantaga’s water is indeed achievable, and there are immediate steps that can be taken to enhance quality of life. For example, the government could immediately subsidise or guar- antee free access to clean bottled water as they work toward ensuring the community has sustainable access to clean drinking water. They could honour Neskantaga’s jurisdiction, halting unsupported regional devel- opment. But as history has demonstrated, Minister Hajdu is just one of long series agents of the state who have made such empty promises. For example, in 2016, then-Minister of Crown and Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennet, visited Neskantaga, committing that the government would ensure that the long-term drinking water advisory would be lifted, 125 Somatechnics and clean drinking water provided in two years. So, while an optimistic appraisal of ministerial commitments is tempting, there is little solace for many First Nations citizens, especially young people, who are feeling the weight of the somatechnics of the long-term drinking water advisory. When considered as a choreographed pattern of responses to states of emergency, one quickly understands the performative nature of these declarations. The Canadian government undoubtedly understands the relation- ship between infrastructural abandonment and suicide, as they have heard it first-hand time and time again. For example, in 2016, Charla Moonias, a resident of Neskantaga, speaking of her own experiences with suicidality explained during Minister Bennet’s visit, ‘the suicides, the water, the housing – everything is connected’ (Porter 2016). In 2019, the Government was sued in a class action lawsuit involving members of Neskantaga. The Government has since entered a court approved settlement which acknowledges that Canada failed to provide safe drinking water in some First Nation communities. The settlement expressed once again the government’s intention to take ‘all reasonable steps to ensure that First Nations communities have adequate access to clean, safe drinking water’ (Government of Canada 2022). While this is an important acknowledgement that speaks to the government’s own fiduciary failure, there remain few mechanisms that compel the Canadian government to act in the interests of First Nations. The settlement agreement does not imply that the same interests are shared. While class action lawsuits have been effective to document damages and provide some settlement, the terms of this settlement agreement only address a mere eight years of life under drinking water advisory (2013–2021) and are governed by heavy restrictions on the future legal actions of claimants. As such, these measures can ring hollow for many in Neskantaga still hauling water from the reverse osmosis system, which is now a site of unspeakable grief. Under such terms, those facing the heavy brunt of hydrocolonial violence are forced to navigate difficult feelings about their living. In recent decades, research and popular coverage on suicide has seen the reduction of criminalising discourse (e.g., ‘committing suicide’) and an uptake in non-criminalising framing (e.g., ‘died by suicide’). But an unintentional consequence of this shift is that the dimension of agency on the part of suicidal person is diminished. It may be disquieting, but under the disempowering and necropolitical conditions of hydrocolonialism, some people feel they have to, quite literally, take their own life. Not to be confused with an expression of nihilism, sometimes suicide demonstrates that, in the face of systems of 126 Hydrocolonial Affects oppression enacting slow necropolitical death, people exert sovereignty over the conditions for living even in their dying. Suicidality therefore does not flow from an inability to find meaning in living, but represents a devastating act of meaning making about the conditions of living. Such felt knowledge is incendiary and treated as a dangerous endorsement of death. But rather than an endorsement of death, what if suicide presents an invitation to shift our attention towards resisting the sadistic necropolitics of the hydrocolonial state? After all, it is these somatechnics that are actively constraining the possibilities for living for Indigenous peoples. This is not to say that Indigenous people are fated to suicide by somatechnical arrangements. Indeed, every day, there are people in First Nations under drinking water advisories that make the possibilities of living present for one another. As Billy-Ray Belcourt (2020) suggests ‘how any of us survive in a world always against us, against what we signify and make imaginable, is a sociologically significant act’ (134). Living under long term drinking water advisories produces a range of affects that have heavy bearing on what we feel is possible. Within suicidology, the question of agency ‘sometimes comes with a dismissal of situated political and cultural meanings of self-destructive acts’ (Broz and Münster 2016: 5). By overemphasising the psychopatho- logical etiology of suicidality, we fail to reckon with the broader structural conditions implicated in the act of suicide, or as Bargu (2014) has sug- gested, we operate unaware of ‘what mechanisms make the self-infliction of death appear as the only agency possible’ (104). In doing so, we fall prey to processes which pathologise responsibility and individualise redress. Hydrocolonial affects demand the opposite: that we honour the agency of people, even in their dying, and understand the collective nature of redress. In other words, attending to hydrocolonial affects compels the living to political action. As Ansloos and Peltier (2022) have suggested, ‘to make bodies inhabitable, one must make the world live- able’ (114). To this end, First Nations are ‘parched for justice’ (Perera and Pugliese 2011a), and as suicide makes clear, that justice concerns water. From Affects to Action: Addressing the Injustice of Hydrocolonialism Building on Million’s (2009) insistence that felt theories are crucial ‘to inform ourselves and our generations, to counter and intervene in a constantly morphing colonial system’ (55), I want to conclude by reflec- ting on what hydrocolonial affects demand in terms of redressing 127 Somatechnics colonial violence. Like all felt theories, suicides represent ‘significant political interventions or counterhegemonic moves’ (Million 2008: 268). As an instructive theorisation of the conditions of life, I have shown that suicide demonstrates the affective consequences of long-term drinking water advisories. But here I want to consider how hydrocolonial affects can be witnessed as individual acts of resistance, as well as inform collective acts by those of us who remain alive in the world. Suicidal deaths in many First Nations lay bare what is at stake in the continuation of the current hydrocolonial regime: that self-inflicted death can sometimes feel like the only degree of self-determination afforded to Indigenous peoples in the world as it is. For the living, the same political freedom that animates such desperate measures can help orient action for making the world liveable and bodies inhabitable. As Jeff Corntassel (2012) urges, self-determination is born out of the ‘the courage and imagination to envision life beyond the state’ (89). What is at stake is sovereignty. Sovereignty of bodies can be expressed diversely, but such acts are always concerned with freedom. Whether it is liberation in death from being perpetually somatechnically in/trans/formed by necropolitical violence, or ‘to become otherwise in the aftermath’ (Murphy 2017a) of the nation state, what ought to matter for the living are creating changes that facilitate and proliferate ways of living well and free lives within and beyond hydrocolonialism. There is no universal approach to dismantling the necropolitical violence of colonialism in all First Nations. But hydrocolonial affects expressed through suicide in communities like Neskantaga make clear that the prevention of suicidal death is tethered to addressing water injustice. To reduce access to drinkable water to yet another ‘social determinant of health’ is a crude understatement: water justice is a necessary dimension of suicide prevention. While felt theories do not necessarily provide a roadmap for the living, such affects do offer us wisdom in their condemnation of conditions of unliveability. Action should be characterised by focus on strategies which enhance the conditions for First Nations sovereignty over water, and indeed our lives. Such strategies will in turn produce new hydrological relations more amenable to living. I am interested here in what M. Murphy (2017b) has described as the ‘alter-concepts of care and responsibility … that simultaneously aim at world-building and dismantlement’ (496–497). Attending to felt theories demands that we dismantle the somatechnics of long-term water advisories while also effecting/affecting other ways of being in relationship to one another. This paper has sketched the possibilities for existence and resis- tance that are produced by engaging with Indigenous peoples’ suicide in 128 Hydrocolonial Affects contexts of water injustice as a kind of felt theory. Importantly, however, the challenge of engaging with felt theories also extends to water, which has implications for creating liveable worlds and inhabitable bodies. Of course, this requires different ways of thinking and speaking of and with water, and rests upon a set of assumptions about agency that challenge anthropocentrism. As Chen, MacLeod and Neimanis (2013) inquire, ‘can political agency be attributed to the work of water?’ (7). Against the framing of water as a non-living subject governed by the colonial state, Indigenous conceptions of water affirm that they are ‘agential more-than-human beings in their own right’ (Todd 2017: 106). To that I would add water feels, and indeed, have their own ‘stories to tell’ (Perry 2020: 8) Against a tendency to reduce the intimate relationalities of water to the domain of the metaphorical, ‘water is a matter of relation and connection’, and attending to this materiality is at least in part how we can begin to understand water feelings, especially hydrocolonial ones (Chen, MacLeod and Neimanis 2013: 12). Put another way, when across Indigenous philosophies, we claim that water is life, it is not a metaphor but a material claim about the struggle for water and of the life of water (Ansloos 2023). Like suicidal people, waters make materially known their experiences with, the conditions of, and resistances against colonialism. Whether in flooding, or in the shifting expressions of smell, colour, sheen, and composition, waters tell us something, if we pay attention. But what do we make of the felt theory of water contamination? And is it connected to the felt theories of suicidal people living under drinking water advisories? Of course, if material expressions of hydro- logical change are demonstrative of water feelings, they must also be considered in the wake of ‘anthropogenic intervention,’ bringing us back to ‘ecopolitics and the need for more accountability to the water we all share’ (Chen, MacLeod and Neimanis 2013: 12). In describing such changes, Pugliese (2023) reminds us that ‘aqua-political regimes of governmentality’ particularly those which permeate settler states, ‘unleash lethal effects that kill both bodies of water and the entities that depend on them for life’ (23). I suggest that water communicates these hydrological traumas, affectively. Due to hydrocolonialism, many bodies of freshwater, once vibrant with nourishing capacity and ‘aqueous abundance’ to sustain relations (Pugliese 2023: 25), including humans, have over time come to express hydrocolonial affects which speak of water violations, hydrological trauma, and infringements on waters’ ability to care and be in good relations. As humans, we often perceive such affects as toxic, lethally risky, and threatening to humans. Not 129 Somatechnics dissimilar to the treatment of both suicide and suicidal people. But if we attend to such affects from the perspective of water, we might recognise that these water feelings are only deadly as a product of our collective failure to care for a broader web of relations, including hydrological ones. Under hydrocolonialism, these relations are always instrumenta- lised and depersonalised. Much like suicidality tells us about the struc- tural, water feelings expressed in hydrological change tell us about water’s social situatedness. Be it, ‘ongoing industrial pollution, megadam construction, massive groundwater extraction, and large-scale irrigation schemes,’ all these somatechnics affect water, and ‘re-choreograph rela- tions in harmful ways’ (Chen, MacLeod and Neimanis 2013: 12). We need new language for these hydrological feelings. I’m inter- ested here in the language of ‘necroresistance,’ where we might think of water feelings and the felt theories of suicidal people as connected ‘corporeal acts of insurgence’ of death and dying that reveal, commu- nicate with, and perform response to hydrocolonialism (Bargu 2014). Murphy (2017a) suggests that we might find this language by consider- ing of the ways that the condition of ‘altered living-being,’ is a shared condition between human, and other/more/older than human life. In hydrocolonialism, water and Indigenous people find themselves on death’s doorstep, together. Against the splintering of relations, often perpetuated within the assessment of environmental impacts for resource development and infrastructure, the hydrocolonial affects of both people and water, invite us to think in a manner that includes ‘interconnected ecosystems … [where] there is no geographical region without people connected to it’ and vice versa (Craft and Blakley 2022: 95). Within that ‘sense of enmeshed land and body entails affirming more consensual ways of being together’ (Murphy 2017b: 497). As Chen, MacLeod and Neimanis (2013) suggest, ‘if we are to be responsible to water – if we are to respond to … its articulations of kinship and its radical importance in the places we inhabit – then we are obliged to recognize’ (24). Hydrocolonial affects help us to recognise these mutual enfleshments of human and other/more/older than human life, and to understand what is materially at stake in forming ethical relations. Just as we mutually face the threat of annihilation together, we also must resist together. Indeed, as Pugliese (2023) reminds us, ‘it is water that animates and creates the very possibility of flesh … it constitutes the very conditions of possibility of the flesh of the water’ (26). Suicide prevention, as envisaged by suicidology, is far too narrow a political project. 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Published: Aug 1, 2023

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