“‘Who’s going to look after the river?’ Water and the Ethics of Care in Thomas King’s The Back of the Turtle


This paper analyses the trope of water in Thomas King’s latest novel The Back of the Turtle from an ethics-of-care perspective that puts in conversation Indigenous ethics, feminist care ethics and environmental ethics. I suggest that King’s focus on water offers a harsh—even if often humorous—critique of the anthropocentric, neoliberal extractivist mentality while proposing a transcultural ethics of care. Consequently, my analysis of the novel draws on the dialogue taking place in the realm of the Environmental Humanities in Canada and beyond about the centrality of water (See Cecilia Chen, Janine MacLeod and Astrida Neimais’ Thinking with Water; Dorothy Christian and Rita Wong’s Downstream: Reimagining Water; Astrida Neimanis’ Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology; Stacy Alaimo’s Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times, as well as on Indigenous epistemologies that eschew anthropocentrism in favour of attentive caring for the interconnected needs of humans and non-humans within interdependent ecologies, and feminist environmental care ethics that emphasize the importance of empowering communities to care for themselves and the ecologies that sustain them.

This article ““‘Who’s going to look after the river?’ Water and the Ethics of Care in Thomas King’s The Back of the Turtle“” originally appeared in Rescaling CanLit: Global Readings Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 238 (2019): 66-82.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.