BOONE, N.C. — Dr. Dana E. Powell, associate professor in Appalachian State University’s Department of Anthropology, is the recipient of $5,000 in grant funding from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) for her project “States of Matter: Water’s Sovereignties and Subjectivities in the Navajo Nation.” This research builds upon her understanding of the ways in which the Diné (Navajo) people adjust to the impacts of climate change in their region.
For the grant project, which supports anthropological research and ethnographic fieldwork in the Navajo Nation during the 2019–20 academic year, Powell has collaborated with Earl Tulley, a Navajo Nation citizen, as well as a number of other Diné consultants.
Of the “States of Matter” project, Powell said her work “supports collaborative research with Diné community experts, exploring lived experiences of climate change and possibilities for transition through an examination of human–water relationships in the wake of energy extraction and related toxicities.”
One-third of households on the Navajo reservation do not have running or potable water, according to Powell. Families are accustomed to driving half an hour to two hours to wells and springs to retrieve water for household and livestock use, she said.
“The Southwest is experiencing unprecedented aridity due to a long-standing drought, so water is increasingly scarce in a region where water has, for a very long time, been a precious and limited resource,” Powell said, citing recent reports that indicate the Colorado River is diminishing each year due to evaporation.
Additionally, she said the reservation’s water sources, as well as local water sources in the Four Corners region of the Southwest, have experienced significant contamination due to the impacts of extractive industries such as oil, coal, uranium and natural gas fracking.
“My project aims to examine how people are understanding these water effects in their everyday experience and how this might be connected to a local sense of climate change,” Powell said.
Powell is currently completing a Cornell University Society for the Humanities Fellowship for the 2019–20 academic year, in which she is researching and writing an article that will develop the framework for her second book project, which focuses on the sociocultural dynamics of the contemporary energy–water–climate nexus in the Navajo Nation.
She was one of seven scholars in the United States and Canada selected for the fellowship.
What do you think?
Share your feedback on this story.
About the Department of Anthropology
The Department of Anthropology offers a comparative and holistic approach to the study of the human experience. The anthropological perspective provides a broad understanding of the origins as well as the meaning of physical and cultural diversity in the world — past, present and future. Learn more at https://anthro.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.