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Houston describes her first impression of the arid valley that would be her home for the next three-and-a-half years as a “swirl” that is both environmental and emotional.She continues to bring together environment and affect throughout her memoir, 's frank, observant young narrator recounts the homesickness, humiliation, and racism, as well as the cultural, economic, and personal losses experienced by those incarcerated.I investigate these registers by using insights from material ecocriticism: an approach that “takes matter as a text, as a site of narrativity.” Material ecocritics understand matter in an unconventional way.
material form,” emotions are promoted at this memorial site?
How does affect accumulate here—how is it embedded in landscapes, buildings, and stories on NPS displays?
Agency, in this humbling redefinition, is not a product of individual consciousness or will but rather a collaboration between human and nonhuman actors.
This conception of agency enhances scholarship on public memory by helping to theorize the impacts of the extra-textual, of physical matter, in the eco-affective “swirl” at a place like Manzanar.
Many stories are being unearthed today by archaeologists and historians on-site, and others gathered in archives such as
These memoirs, photographic essays, and interviews are intimately connected to the natural and built environment of the place.
More broadly, I suggest that ecocritical theory brings a useful lens to discussions of public memory, and that affect theory helps account for the less tangible, visceral, experiences visitors have at Manzanar and other fraught historical sites, as well as within our everyday environments.a yellow swirl across a blurred, reddish setting sun.
The bus was being pelted by what sounded like splattering rain. This was [her] first look at something [she] would soon know very well, a billowing flurry of dust and sand churned up by the wind through Owens Valley.
Houston also describes how the incarcerees formed communities and reshaped their environment—a remote 640-acre plot of desert in the shadow of California's Sierra Nevada, crammed with 504 barracks, 72 latrines, 36 mess halls, 36 recreation halls, 36 laundry buildings, and 36 ironing rooms and enclosed by barbed wire—into something more inhabitable, even more beautiful.
In 1992, 50 years after Manzanar opened, the National Park Service (NPS) began managing Manzanar as a National Historic Site.