Imperial contradictions: Is the Valley a watershed, region, or cyborg?

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19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Is California's Imperial Valley a watershed? If so, at what level and by what topographic logic? Is it a region? If so, at what level and by what geographic logic? Are its boundaries natural, political, or multivalent on different scales? In short, this essay looks at the special (re)production of environmental conditions within a cyborg world. Here, the Valley is comprised of (a) Colorado River water; (2) migratory waterfowl; (3) the accidentally manufactured, but intentionally seeded food chain of the Salton Sea (3) the San Andreas Fault, (4) Mexican field labor; (5) public universities extension services; (6) global markets and supply chains; (7) international biotechnology, chemical and seed conglomerates, and (8) state and federal regulation of water rights, regulations and markets. The Valley is a cyborg, a historical entity comprised interdependently of nature, technoscience and humanity. This, characterization, however, raises problems with conceptions of the massive losses of migratory waterfowl from avian cholera at the Salton Sea, the agroecological devastation caused by the unintentional introduction of the Silver Leaf whitefly, and the "wastage" of constrained water rights as environmental crises of nature. The articulation of a cyborg perspective sees the environmental conditions of the Valley as the product of relations comprised of uneven and indeterminate ecological process, technoscientific trajectories, and human practices. Extending the cyborg's integration of nature, technology and social agency, a relational reading of James O'Connor's second contradiction of capitalism thesis is developed. O'Connor's political ecology and Haraway material semiotics, while broadly operating at different levels of analysis, prove surprisingly resonant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-38
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2005

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