Aggregate Airs: Atmospheres of Oil and Gas in the Greater Chaco
In the Greater Chaco region of northwest New Mexico, new fracking technologies are stirring up lands, chemicals, and relations that concentrate attention in the surround. This article argues that extraction’s cumulative atmospheric effects are experienced by Diné residents of the region in ways that cannot be accounted for by the agencies that manage oil and gas. The state’s presumption of atmospheric commensurability is reinforced by techniques of settler governance that fragment ecological and ontological domains like air and land. This fragmentation often preempts the possibility for Indigenous claims to meaningfully disrupt administrative or judicial actions. Unfolding extraction’s atmospheres across three cases, I examine how scale mediates the problem of commensurability. I describe how prevailing approaches to regulating impacts of the oil and gas industry manipulate scale in ways that obscure the cumulative effects of extraction. Drawing on fieldwork with Diné residents of the region who have mobilized to study how fracking affects their wellbeing, and I show how this scalar work facilitates the commensuration of extraction’s impacts across Indigenous and non-Indigenous worlds––as well as when this commensuration fails.
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