Underflows: Queer Trans Ecologies and River Justice

By Dr. Cleo Wölfle Hazard. Available NOW from University of Washington Press.


Rivers host vibrant multispecies communities in their waters and along their banks, and, according to queer-trans-feminist river scientist Cleo Wölfle Hazard, their future vitality requires centering the values of justice, sovereignty, and dynamism. At the intersection of river sciences, queer and trans theory, and environmental justice, Underflows explores river cultures and politics at five sites of water conflict and restoration in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Incorporating work with salmon, beaver, and floodplain recovery projects, Wölfle Hazard weaves narratives about innovative field research practices with an affectively oriented queer and trans focus on love and grief for rivers and fish. Drawing on the idea of underflows—the parts of a river’s flow that can’t be seen, the underground currents that seep through soil or rise from aquifers through cracks in bedrock—Wölfle Hazard elucidates the underflows in river cultures, sciences, and politics where Native nations and marginalized communities fight to protect rivers. The result is a deeply moving account of why rivers matter for queer and trans life, offering critical insights that point to innovative ways of doing science that disrupt settler colonialism and new visions for justice in river governance.

In this impassioned book, Cleo Wölfle Hazard takes seriously how multiple species and human communities co-create knowledge about and management of riverine environments. Examining how the ethical orientations and collaborative methods of queer and trans communities articulate models of ecological resurgence and belonging, Wölfle Hazard asks readers to engage with the underflows – submerged knowledges of and resistances to environmental destruction – that will be vital for creating forms of living together that break with the inequalities and violences of colonial settlement and capitalist property relations. In the process, Wölfle Hazard offers a radical vision for more responsible practices of environmental science and conservation that are attentive to frontline communities and to the phenomenal worlds of rivers, beavers, salmon, and other life forms affected by the current crises.

Neel Ahuja, University of California, Santa Cruz