Debris as Storied Matter: Ecological Violence of War in A Tale for the Time Being

Ling Liu*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    I examine details of the ecological violence of war in Ruth Ozeki’s novel A Tale for the Time Being, positing that these seemingly peripheral details underscore the significant role of military imperialism in perpetuating environmental destruction, speciesism, and racist violence on indigenous people. During the Pacific War, pilots stationed in the Aleutian Islands use whales as bombing targets, exemplifying an anthropocentric perspective that regards non-human animals merely as instruments for human purposes. Ozeki demonstrates that through a cross-species collaboration between Callie and the whales, people formally ignorant of their violence on animals can be made to care about animals. In addition, both the Aleutian Islands and Okinawa are marked by militarized violence on both the indigenous people and the landscape. The environmental damage caused by military actions in World War II extends beyond the immediate impacts of combat. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster should be understood as a direct outcome of the nuclear industry established during World War II. Through depictions of the propaganda on nuclear energy, the massive displacement of local people after the nuclear fallout, and the uncontainable, far-reaching consequences of radiation contamination, Ruth Ozeki alerts readers to the destructive capabilities that both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons possess. Moreover, Ozeki’s choice of Canada as the victim of radiation from Japan should not be seen as reinforcing the image of a “safe” Canada; instead it critiques Canada’s role in global imperialism by revealing Canada’s supply of uranium to the Manhattan Project and its continuous supply of oil to the US military.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)147-168
    Number of pages23
    JournalWenshan Review of Literature and Culture
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

    User-Defined Keywords

    • ecocriticism
    • war
    • environment
    • Ruth Ozeki
    • speciesism


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