Brianna Burke

Assistant Professor, English


Office:235 Ross
527 Farm House Ln
Ames IA


My current book project, Becoming Beast, expands the burgeoning, multi-disciplinary field of Environmental Justice (EJ) to consider how not only the ideologies of race, class, and gender have been used to justify inflicting environmental burdens on specific populations, but also how a fourth and hitherto un-studied ideology is now developing that is already beginning to create new strategies for perpetuating environmental injustices. This fourth factor, what I call “animality”, involves the representation of species or biological difference (perceived or actual). The book examines 21st century fiction and films alongside nonfiction texts related to the most pressing contemporary environmental issues of our time, such as climate change and resource extraction. Through the intersection of texts, I reveal how environmental injustice is increasing due to representations that separate and divide certain populations from mainstream culture by comparing these populations either to food animals (thus making them “consumable”), to endangered species (thus portraying them as no longer adaptable to our planet), to “expendable” species (thus a necessary sacrifice to development), or to human/animal hybrids (thus biologically inhuman). At root, my research turns attention to how the unprecedented advances in biotechnology and genetic manipulation have paved the way for blurring the boundaries between human and animal, creating further possibilities to perpetuate social or environmental injustice.