Speculative fiction and sci-fi; environmental humanities; C20/21 multi-ethnic American literatures; Indigenous and postcolonial literatures; science and technology studies; gender and sexuality studies.
Jessica Hurley is assistant professor of English and affiliate faculty in Native American and Indigenous Studies, Cultural Studies, and Women and Gender Studies at George Mason University, where she teaches classes and supervises research in speculative fiction, multi-ethnic American, Indigenous, and world literatures, environmental humanities, queer studies, and critical theory.
Broadly, Hurley works at the intersection of literary and cultural studies, science and technology studies, the environmental humanities, and critical theories of race, indigeneity, disability, gender, and sexuality. Her first book, Infrastructures of Apocalypse: American Literature and the Nuclear Complex, was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2020 and was awarded the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment book prize, as well as being a finalist for the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present book prize. It argues that American literature has responded to the atom bomb not only as an unthinkable paradox or a future threat but also as a new set of apocalyptic infrastructures that have determined the flow of resources and risks across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The book delineates a new literary history of post-1945 America, expanding the archive of nuclear literature to include subaltern authors who have written against the infrastructural violence of the nuclear complex, from James Baldwin’s critique of the racialized urban spaces of civil defense to Leslie Marmon Silko’s analysis of nuclear waste as a colonial weapon. In so doing, it also offers a new theorization of apocalypse as a lived experience that enables a radical political imagination.
In her current book project, Nuclear Decolonizations, Hurley extends her work on cultural struggles around nuclearization in the U.S. to the transnational scale. This project analyzes the global manifestations of the U.S. nuclear complex – from power plants to uranium mines to testing sites – as contact zones between American nuclearism and Indigenous communities, revealing a complex and multidirectional relationship in which the U.S. is reshaped by its nuclear experiences abroad even as sites in South Asia, South Africa, Oceania, and Native North America are transformed by their contact with American nuclear technologies. Nuclear Decolonizations shows how nuclearization has impacted the decolonization imaginary in four key sites and how writers and activists in the Global South have both represented the imperial violence of the nuclear complex and used fiction, poetry, film, and performance to theorize alternatives to it.
Hurley’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Quarterly, College Literature, symplokē, Mediations, Comparative Literature Studies, Commonwealth Essays and Studies, American Literature, Extrapolation, Frame, The Faulkner Journal, and the edited collections The Silence of Fallout: Nuclear Criticism in a Post-Cold War World and Toxic Immanence: Decolonizing Nuclear Futures and Legacies, and been recognized by the Annette Kolodny Prize, the Don D. Walker Prize in Western Literature, the 1921 Prize in American Literature (honorable mention), and the Jim Hinkle Memorial Prize. In 2018 she coedited a special issue of ASAP/Journal titled Apocalypse, and in 2021 she co-edited a joint special issue of American Literature and Resilience titled The Infrastructure of Emergency. She also pursues pedagogical research on issues of equity and inclusion, including as co-facilitator of a Stearns Center Enhanced Faculty Learning Community on Teaching Indigenous Research Methods, as a member of Mason's university-wide Anti-Racist and Inclusive Teaching Resource Development Team, and as PI on a study of Universal Access in humanities core classes.
Impossible Futures: Fictions of Risk in the Longue Durée. American Literature 89:4 (2017).
Complicity, for the Time Being: Nuclear Entanglements from Atoms for Peace to Fukushima. Comparative Literature Studies 56:4 (Fall 2019).
Apocalypse. Special issue of ASAP/Journal 3:3 (2018), coedited with Dan Sinykin.
An Apocalypse is a Relative Thing: An Interview with N.K. Jemisin. ASAP/Journal 3:3 (2018)
The Nuclear Uncanny in Oceania. Commonwealth Essays and Studies 41:1 (2018)
History is What Bites: Zombies, Race, and the Limits of Biopower in Colson Whitehead’s Zone One. Extrapolation 56:3 (2015).
Infrastructures of Apocalypse: American Literature and the Nuclear Complex (University of Minnesota Press, 2020).
Peer Reviewed Articles and Book Chapters
“Nuclear Settler Colonialism at Sea, or, How to Civilize an Ocean.” American Quarterly 74.4 (forthcoming).
“Empire, Infrastructure, and the Speculative Turn.” Genres of Empire. Special issue, College Literature (forthcoming).
“Postface: Unmaking the Nuclear Future.” Toxic Immanence: Decolonizing Nuclear Futures and Legacies, ed. Livia Monnet (Montréal: McGill University Press).
“Infrastructure Beyond Control: Clowning the Nuclear Age.” Control. Special issue, symplokē 28.1-2 (Fall 2020), 101-116.
“Complicity, for the Time Being: Nuclear Entanglements from Atoms for Peace to Fukushima.” Complicity, special issue of Comparative Literature Studies (Fall 2019).
“The Nuclear Uncanny in Oceania.” Unsettling Oceania, special issue of Commonwealth Essays and Studies 41.1 (Autumn 2018).
“Impossible Futures: Fictions of Risk in the Longue Durée.” American Literature 89:4 (December 2017). Winner of the Don D. Walker Prize in Western Literature; honorable mention for the 1921 Prize in American Literature.
“History is What Bites: Race, Zombies, and the Limits of Biopower in Colson Whitehead’s Zone One.” Extrapolation 56:3 (December 2015).
“Still Writing Backwards: Literature After the End of the World.” Apocalypse in Contemporary Culture. Special Issue, Frame Journal of Literary Studies 26.1 (May 2013).
“War as Peace: Afterlives of Nuclear War in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.” The Silence of Fallout: Nuclear Criticism in a Post-Cold War World,eds. Michael Blouin, Morgan Shipley, Jack Taylor (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013).
“Ghostwritten: Kinship and History in Absalom, Absalom!” The Faulkner Journal 26.2 (Fall 2012). Winner of the Jim Hinkle Memorial Prize.
The Infrastructure of Emergency. With John Levi Barnard, Stephanie Foote, and Jeffrey Insko. Special issue of American Literature 93.3 (September 2021).
The Infrastructure of Emergency. With John Levi Barnard, Stephanie Foote, and Jeffrey Insko. Special issue of Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities 8.3 (Fall 2021).
Apocalypse. With Dan Sinykin. Special issue of ASAP/Journal 3.3 (September 2018).
Non-peer reviewed scholarly publications
“Introduction: The Infrastructure of Emergency.” With Jeffrey Insko. The Infrastructure of Emergency. Special issue of American Literature 93.3 (September 2021), 345-359.
“On the ethics of impossibility.” With Dan Sinykin. “Neoliberalism and Apocalypse,” The Imminent Frame, Social Science Research Council (March 2021). https://tif.ssrc.org/2021/03/10/on-the-ethics-of-impossibility/.
“Apocalypse from Below: Nuclear Infrastructures and Radical Futurelessness.” ASLE web feature (October 2020). https://www.asle.org/features/apocalypse-from-below-nuclear-infrastructures-and-radical-futurelessness/.
“Neoliberalism Then, Now, and Then Again.” Mediations 33.1-2 (Spring 2020), 195-200. Review of Myka Tucker-Abramson, Novel Shocks: Urban Renewal and the Origins of Neoliberalism (New York: Fordham University Press, 2018).
“Introduction: Apocalypse.” With Dan Sinykin. Apocalypse. Special issue of ASAP/Journal 3.3 (September 2018).
“An Apocalypse is a Relative Thing: An Interview with N.K. Jemisin.” Apocalypse. Special issue of ASAP/Journal 3.3 (September 2018).
“Aesthetics and the Infrastructural Turn in the Digital Humanities.” Review essay, American Literature 88:3 (September 2016).
Entries for Gilead, The Children’s Book, and American Rustin 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, ed. Peter Boxall (New York, NY: Universe Pub., 2010).
2021-22: Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams, Jr. Fellowship, National Humanities Center (for Nuclear Decolonizations)
2021: George Mason University Faculty Research Development Award
2018: Inclusive Pedagogy Project Award, University of Chicago (for “Universal Access in the Humanities Core”)
2017: First Book Institute Fellowship, Center for American Literary Studies at Pennsylvania State University (for Infrastructures of Apocalypse)
2014-15: Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship
ENGH 451: Science Fiction
ENGH 308 Theory and Inquiry: Toxic Humanities
ENGH 202 Texts and Contexts: Science Fiction and Social Justice
ENGH 418: Cultural Constructions of Sexualities
ENGH 400: Honors Seminar in Black and Indigenous Futurisms
CULT 860: Space, Place, Environmental Justice
Ph.D.: University of Pennsylvania, English, 2015. Certificate in College and University Teaching.
M.A.: University of Sussex, Twentieth Century Literature, 2007.
B.A. (Hons.), First Class: University of Oxford, English Literature and Language, 2004.
2022: Darts and Letters podcast interview with Gordon Katic about nuclear cultures, "Mutually Assured Dysfunction."
2022: Infrastructures of Apocalypse quoted in Nino Mcquown, “White Futurism No Longer Holds Center Stage in HBO’s Station Eleven,” Electric Literature
2021: New Books Network podcast interview with Christian Long about Infrastructures of Apocalypse
2021: Edge Effects podcast interview with April Anson about Infrastructures of Apocalypse