The World as the Whole: Culture, Ecology and Holistic Worldbuilding in N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy
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The thesis analyses the relationship between ecology and social and cultural dynamics in the imagined world of The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. It believes their interconnection is ecocritically relevant for how people engage with environmental crises like climate change. The thesis coins the term holistic worldbuilding for the representations of these interconnected dynamics, which are relevant for how people engage with environmental crises like climate change. Holistic worldbuilding emphasises the interaction and interrelation between human culture and nature, and rejects conflict as the only element that drives a narrative. It adds to ecocritical thought in that it argues for solidarity and empathy not just between human culture and nature, but between human cultures, too. The thesis then analyses the relationship between the people and their planet, and between different cultural groups. Through close reading, it focuses on ecological elements of the imagined world and cultural lore that informs people’s lives, arguing that each shapes the other. Continuing its close reading, the thesis also analyses oppressive power structures and the cultural dynamics that keep these in place, and how these are tied to the environmental circumstances of the imagined world. Finally, the thesis reviews narrative techniques that the trilogy uses that contribute to its holistic worldbuilding. Using Jemisin’s use of worldbuilding, this thesis argues that The Broken Earth trilogy can inspire a rethinking of how humans can engage and coexist with their environment differently.