"We are the Delta": Nature and Agency in Helon Habila’s Oil on Water





Niger Delta, oil, ecocriticism, pollution, Helon Habila, nature, agency


      At first sight there appear to be three human participants in the Niger Delta struggle in Helon Habila’s novel Oil on Water. The soldiers sent by the federal government keep the oil business running;  the armed rebels fight to protect the environment and for a say in the distribution of petrodollars; and the local villagers find themselves wedged in-between.  This article claims that the fourth actor in the ecodrama is the brutalized landscape.  Far from assuming a passive role, nature in Oil on Water strikes back through Habila’s prose. The devastated land is given a powerful voice in order to demand an urgent need for action to stop any further destruction caused by mindless oil extraction. 


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Author Biography

Felicity Hand, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Felicity Hand is senior lecturer in the English Department of the Autonomous University of Barcelona.  She teaches postcolonial literature and history and culture of the British Isles and the United States. She has published articles on various Indian Ocean writers including M.G.Vassanji and Abdulrazak Gurnah and a full-length study of the Mauritian author Lindsey Collen. She is the head of the research group Ratnakara  <http://grupsderecerca.uab.cat/ratnakara>  which explores the literatures and cultures of the South West Indian Ocean.   At present she is head of a research project financed by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness entitled the aesthetics of remembering, which focuses on life writing