Postcolonial studies and "development" theory; globalization; environmental discourse and policy; climate change fiction; contemporary world literature; war writing.
Karen Piper's research focuses on globalization and the rhetoric of "development," particularly in relation to water infrastructure and environmental issues. With a Master's degree in Environmental Studies and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature (University of Oregon, 1996), she pursues interdisciplinary projects that focus on resource scarcity, distribution, and human rights. Her first book, Cartographic Fictions: Maps, Race, and Identity (Palgrave Macmillan 2006), looks at the evolution of mapping technology in the British colonies--from triangulation to GIS--as a way to gain distance and control over local populations. Her second book, Left in the Dust: How Race and Politics Created a Human and Environmental Tragedy in L.A., examines the environmental justice issues surrounding water pollution and scarcity in Los Angeles. Her most recent book, The Price of Thirst: Water Scarcity and the Coming Chaos, has been called "a piece of tack-sharp reportage" by Kirkus Reviews. It deals issues as far-ranging as the water crisis in the Middle East crisis, "water banking" in California, and General Pinochet's "Water Code" in Chile. She has done research in Iraq, Chile, Egypt, Turkey, India, and elsewhere, supported by the NEH, Carnegie Mellon, and MU. She teaches contemporary world literature and postcolonial history, as well as climate change fiction, literary journalism, and other courses. Her work in literary journalism and creative writing has led to a Sierra Nature Writing Award, a UCLA poetry exhibition, and numerous articles in Places magazine. She is a featured speaker at the Summit Series in Eden, Utah.
PhD 1996, University of Oregon
- Karen Piper. The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos. (University of Minnesota Press, 2014)
- Karen Piper. Left in the Dust: How Race and Politics Created a Human and Environmental Tragedy in L.A. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)
- Karen Piper. Cartographic Fictions: Maps, Race, and Identity (Rutgers University Press, 2001)