This article focuses on figures of subsidence in Jesmyn Ward’s novels of Bois Sauvage. Subsidence not only describes an actual process of sinking land in the US Gulf Coast bioregion but also refigures how those who study climate change can understand and address its material effects. A focus on subsidence makes visible the sometimes-invisible infrastructure of the ground, and analysis scaled to the figure of subsidence forces a reorientation of vision—away from rising sea levels and toward the destabilizing loss of land. From this perspective, Ward’s fiction identifies histories of colonial engineering, extraction, and displacement as key ecological dangers. Unsettling national narratives of the Gulf Coast, Ward’s subsident figurations connect issues of environmental emergency to structures of environmental racism, which unevenly enhance the precarity of certain communities by diminishing the ecological infrastructures of their lands. This article argues that literary fiction can produce new understandings of situated environmental challenges and can pose particular obligations for environmental justice.

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