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Desiree Hellegers' Research

Dr. Desiree Hellegers

Department of English
Director, Collective for Social and Environmental Justice
Office: VMMC 202V


I’ve taught at WSU Vancouver since 1993 and was a founding co-director of the Collective for Social and Environmental Justice. My research and teaching interests include environmental justice literature; ecocriticism; Shakespeare and 17th/18th century literature with a focus on the Commons and enclosure, roots of global capitalism, witch hunts, colonial violence, extraction & ecological exploitation; enslavement; creative writing (poetry, plays, literary journalism/creative nonfiction); experiential/popular education; and oral history. I’ve been documenting unfolding Pacific Northwest social movements–generally in an immersive, participatory way–around fossil fuel resistance/kayaktivism, houselessness, poverty and inequality for more than two decades.  I’m interested in the intersections of militarism, climate collapse, mass incarceration, and houselessness. These interests also inform radio segments I produce as a member of the Old Mole Variety Hour collective on Portland’s community supported radio station KBOO (90.7 fm), and related journalism.  I’m interested in the spoken word poetry of ordinary people struggling to bring sanity and humanity to a world in crisis.

I grew up in a suburb of Washington, D.C. Before and during grad school, I worked as a bartender, taxi driver, janitor, office temp, caregiver, and cook, including a season in the canneries in Naknek, Alaska. I also worked as an advocate and live-in staff in shelters in Seattle, and I consider these experiences as having very much shaped my work as a teacher and researcher.  My interest in houselessness is rooted in a brief and privileged experience of it as a houseless undergraduate haunting the halls of vacant dorms with my younger sister and pretending not to be houseless.

Since co-creating the digital database The Thin Green Line is People History Project  (with Roben White, with assistance from Derya Ruggles), beginning in 2017, I’ve gotten more interested in exploring digital platforms. For more information on my work, see my personal webpage. For more information on the daily cost of war to your own community, see the National Priorities Project Cost of War


  • B.A. English, Georgetown University, 1983
  • Ph.D. University of Washington, 1994


  • Visiting Scholar, Department of History and Philosophy, Cambridge University, 1991-2.
  • Lewis E. and Stella G. Buchanan, Distinguished Associate Professorship, 2019-21.

Recent Awards/Recognition

  • College of Arts and Sciences Public and Community Engagement Award, 2021.
  • Semi-finalist, New Guard Review, Knightville Poetry Contest, 2018.
  • Finalist, New Millenium Writings, Literary Award (Poetry), 2017
  • Long-listed, Poetry Society, National Poetry Competition (England), 2015


“How I Learned to Breathe thru the Apocalypse,” a serialized play, written and performed by Desiree Hellegers; co-directed, co-produced, and co-edited by actor/producer and WSU Vancouver alum Derya Ruggles. Airing on Open-Signal cable television, which broadcasts on 4 Comcast stations in the Portland, Vancouver metropolitan area to more than 400,000 households. Episode 1 released in September 2021.

“No Room of Her Own: Women’s Stories of Homelessness, Life, Death and Resistance,” staged reading, Fertile Ground Festival, Portland, Oregon, Jan. 23 and 24, 2015.


“Year of the Cicadas, 1970,” Counterpunch, May 10, 2024.

“Catechism Follows Recess,” Counterpunch, December 25, 2023.

“Why I Hate Mad Men,” Counterpunch, October 16, 2020. 

“Dumbo Elegies,” New Guard Review, VIII. 2019, 137-8.

“Kodak Moments,” New Millennium Writings, XXVII, 2018.

“Koan: In memory of Thích Quảng Đức,” Counterpunch, June 22, 2020. 

Articles/Book Chapters:

“Deja Vu and White Noise Over Gaza” or “Who Would Howard Zinn Bomb?” Counterpunch, October 27, 2023.

“My (Imaginary) Commencement Address,” Counterpunch, June 16, 2023

“Portland, Oregon at the Crossroads: An Anti-fascist Christmas Carol and Tale of Two Cities,” Counterpunch, December 19, 2022.

“Body Counts: Pesticides, War and Queer Spirituality in Cherrie Moraga’s Heroes and Saints” in Indigenous Art and Health from an International and Interdisciplinary Perspective, Dr. Robert Innes, Dr. Nancy Van Styvendale, and Robert Henry, eds. U. of Manitoba Press, 2021.

“Victor Jara’s Hands: An Anti-fascist Memoir-festo and Brief Personal History of Neoliberalism: Counterpunch, Jan. 1, 2020.

“Of Scrooges, and Sweeps: Body Snatching and Death on the Street: A Christmas Carol in Portlandia,” Counterpunch, January 1, 2020.

(co-authored with Pavithra Narayanan), “Toxic Imperialism: Memory, Erasure, and Environmental Injustice in David Chariandy’s Soucouyant.” ariel: A Review of International English Literature 50.2 (2019): 81-104.

“Transit Riders Unions vs. Climate Change, White Supremacy, and Disaster Capitalism,” Counterpunch  June 19, 2018.

“Unnatural Causes: Health Takes a Hit in Portland Oregon,” Counterpunch, October 19, 2017.

‘Energy without Injury: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street,” Counterpunch, May 23, 2016.

“From Poisson Road to Poison Road: Mapping the Toxic Trail of Windigo Capital in Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 27.2 (2015): 1-28.

Trade Wars: Monsanto’s Return to Viet Nam,” Counterpunch, May 8, 2015.


No Room of Her Own: Women’s Stories Natural Philosophy, Poetry and of Homelessness,
Life, Death and Resistance (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).






Handmaid to Divinity: Natural Philosophy
Poetry and Gender in Seventeenth
Century England (Norman: U of Oklahoma, 2000).







Digital Archive

The Thin Green Line is People: An Archival History of Pacific Northwest Fossil Fuel Resistance

Segments Produced for Portland’s community-supported radio station KBOO Radio 

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