Abbey Ballard

‘ARE THEY GETTING IT?’: Texting with Water in Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s This Accident of Being Lost


For many material ecocritics water’s unique chemical properties and discursive fluidity is a vital source for tracing human entanglement with the more-than-human world. Not only does water flow through and between the matter which constitutes our own bodies and that of our ecosystems, but its fluid form ‘gathers stories, identities and memories’[1] across cultures. The question is, however, in the technological world we live in would we be more likely to heed the ecological impacts of our actions if water were to manifest this material agency by sharing hashtags and liking our tweets?

In her collection This Accident of Being Lost (2017), Leanne Betasamosake Simpson asks just that. Rooted within traditional Nishnaabeg storytelling practices, Simpson actively resists authoritative Western literary norms through a fluid, nonlinear narrative of fragmented songs and stories. This resistance bleeds into the stories themselves, and is manifested within ‘Big Water,’ in which the narrator engages in text communication with Chi’Niibish, the technologically astute spirit of Lake Ontario. Through a critical analysis of Simpson’s use of fragmented storytelling as intervention, this paper will seek to explore whether the often satirically dark results of such storytelling successfully decolonise and reorient dominant Western narratives of ecological understanding.

The passive responses to water degradation found within Simpson’s fictional work offer an eerie reflection of Western society’s response to environmental and social injustice. While it is unlikely that we will find Lake Ontario sharing our tweets, this critical analysis of Simpson’s work will explore the possibility of ecological connection mediated through technology. By doing so, this paper will seek to question whether social media can allow us to reconnect and to reconsider our ecological impact on the more-than-human world, or whether it is time for us to look up from our screens to seek voices of ecological sensitivity.

[1] Cecilia Chen, Janine MacLeod, and Astrida Neimanis, ‘Introduction’, in Thinking with Water, ed. by Cecilia Chen, Janine MacLeod, and Astrida Neimanis (Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013), pp. 3-22 (p. 5).


Abbey Ballard began her PhD at the University of Worcester in October 2020, having accepted a fully-funded research studentship in the Environmental Humanities. Her research examines environmental justice and the process of decolonisation through activism within academia, with a particular focus on Indigenous women’s writing of North America. Abbey acts as Editorial Assistant for the academic journal Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism, the official journal for ASLE-UKI. She has also recently published her first co-authored journal article entitled ‘Ties that bind: international studies in ecocriticism’ within the October 2020 special issue of Green Letters on international ecocriticism.

Research Material

Presentation Slides


If you wish to contact this speaker please email who will be happy to forward your request.