On March 4, I woke up to an urgent message from Avaaz in my email asking me to join the global effort to protect the Earth’s rivers. An image of a polluted river with denuded sides crowded with people trying to bathe or to pan (it was unclear which) graced their petition. This could be any water body anywhere. Yet, I have argued for paying attention to the specificity of types of water bodies in my scholarly work, thinking to militate against the tendency to dissolve all to water within the framework of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), the reigning policy paradigm. It matters whether water comes in a plastic container or from a tube-well. It matters what type of a river it is, say, braided or meandering. Entirely different sets of experiences, practices, policies, problems spring to mind with each.
My intuition is served by the recent spate of efforts to give personhood to rivers as distinct from other water bodies. New Zealand’s Whanganui, United States’ Klamath, Colombia’s Amazon, Canada’s Magpie are all rivers which have had personhood given to them. The western legal concept of a person with rights and responsibilities has been tasked to express varying Indigenous notions of the river, from embodying ancestors to aspects of Mother Earth. Whereas the notion of personhood has been used to much pernicious effect, such as in the granting of personhood to corporations, invariably the effort to extend personhood to rivers is to protect them, say from mining or damming or to secure them for eco-tourism, the latter bringing with it its own issues and concerns.
Even if such legal claims are yet to be tested and the protective, redemptive measures that unfold from them yet to be borne out in practice, the granting of personhood to rivers seems a positive development. It helps express in however awkward a fashion a range of relations to rivers beyond thinking of them as “ecological service infrastructures” and provides a conceptual bridge for the imagination to take flight to explore other possible relations to rivers than the ones to which one is accustomed. It raises the question for me: by means of this legal claim, what experiences and possibilities present themselves to people who have otherwise very instrumentalist relations to rivers? Can we reimagine our relation to rivers?
As I explore in my recent book on the Jamuna River in Bangladesh, the river expresses itself in myriad ways among those who live alongside it. While writing my book, I was hard pressed to find elaborate cosmologies with respect to the river. Inspired by these recent moves to grant personhood to rivers, I turned to newspaper reportage on rivers in Bangladesh to see how these moves had registered within the Bangladeshi imagination. The English national daily, the Daily Star, known for its consistent focus on the plight of rivers in Bangladesh, records the appalling state of the many rivers of Bangladesh (the Government of Bangladesh portal records 800). The articles point to visual evidence and studies to show how rivers are being filled in to create roads and build factories and how their waters are becoming toxic due to chemical, industrial and household wastes. Some are more forthright in saying that Bangladesh rivers are dying; in fact, 29 are considered biologically dead, unable to support life, possibly asphyxiating.
Among the causes for this crisis in the rivers of Bangladesh are infrastructural tendencies towards river training and the creation of embankments left over from British colonial times. Other articles point to unfair water arrangements with India, notably the Farraka and Gajoldoba Barrages that caused the decline of the Padma and Teesta Rivers in Bangladesh. In a grimly amusing interview with Saber Hossain Chowdhury, head of the parliamentary committee on Environment, Forest and Climate Change, he recounted “they [the industry’s ministry] make the same excuses each time, massive employment and earning of foreign currencies are involved with the tannery industry and a shutdown will have a negative impact,” followed by “We have asked the environment ministry to take measures to sever electricity connection to the respective industrial units upon their failure to act on the directives” (“Slow Death of the Dhaleswari” Daily Star July 18, 2022). And in a clear recognition that the forces that spell the death of rivers are the very same forces that seek to capture all resources in Bangladesh, another article specifies that names of encroachers on rivers be put on lists to prevent them from running for office, getting bank loans or even leaving the country (“Protecting Rights of Rivers: Turning Intentions into Action, Nov 20, 2020).
Such, then, is the context within which the Bangladesh High Court conferred legal personhood upon the Turag River in February 2019 and by extension all rivers in Bangladesh. Writing in October 2021, Suraya Ferdous explains the history of the concept of environmental personhood to Daily Star readers, tracing it back from Dr. Christopher Stone’s 1972 book Should Trees Have Standing?, to the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court Decision on behalf of natural entities, and to Ecuador’s enshrinement of the rights of Pachamamma (Mother Earth) in 2007 and Bolivia’s “Law of the Rights of Mother Earth” (“The Idea of ‘Environmental Personhood’ with Reference to River” Daily Star, Oct 16, 2021). The author notes that the important shift is in perception, from anthropocentricism that upholds natural entities as mere resources for human use, to considering that entities have their own rights to shield themselves from human exploitation. “Legal personhood entitles a river to sue, to utilise compensation for its own wholesomeness, to have a say in multipurpose projects and to have a right in rem not to be affected adversely” (ibid). The National River Conservation Commission (NRCC), created in 2014, was granted guardianship of the Turag. Given the parlous state of law and order in Bangladesh it should not surprise that the NRCC’s efforts to publicize the names of encroachers on rivers are equal parts heroic and pusillanimous for quickly shelving any further actions against them.
What is interesting in the case of Bangladesh extending the rights of personhood to rivers is what transfers from the most capacious understanding of the notion of personhood of rivers. This is another way of asking: what experiences and possibilities present themselves to people who have otherwise very instrumentalist relations to rivers? Can we reimagine our relation to rivers? In the case of say the Whangaui River in New Zealand, it is seen as continuous with the Maori social body—any harm to it is harm to Maoris. Meanwhile, rivers in Bangladesh are granted a more limited set of rights that stops shy of treating them as persons. Rather, they are in the stated custody of persons whose practical action is to protect the rivers, again not for the rivers’ own sake but for the sake of the general good. This fits within the normative Muslim perspective, in which nature is given to humans for their use but also to be safeguarded as God’s creation against human excesses (Bangladesh is majority Muslim). Here too is an unstated reference to Hindu-Muslim relations in these parts through the implicit concern with associating humans with non-humans or rendering non-humans humanlike. What is worrying for me in this question of what transfers or doesn’t transfer is the continued occlusion of those bodies which may put themselves with rivers along a continuum of personhood. Indigenous populations or Adivasis in Bangladesh have long maintained relations with sacred groves, mountains and water bodies. They have also long suffered violence and dispossession of their ancestral lands. While personhood for rivers may enter the Bangladesh imagination through the route of international legal actions, it is dispiriting to find that it does not spur inquiry into Indigenous peoples in Bangladesh, as if they have nothing to add on the matter or insights, experiences, or even critiques. In the event marking the launch of the bilingual translation of the above-mentioned High Court judgment in English and Bengali (“Protecting Rights of Rivers: Turning Intentions into Action, Nov 20, 2020), we hear from students of geography and law, various high-ranking officials of the Bangladesh Government, the senior editor of the Daily Star, lawyers, environmental activists associated with Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), and members of the NRCC. The usual faces, the usual voices, join in an undoubtedly noble struggle to keep alive rivers in Bangladesh, but offer no new possibilities for re-imagining our relations to rivers.
Naveeda Khan is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University and author of Muslim Becoming: Aspiration and Skepticism in Pakistan and the new book River Life and the Uprising of Nature. Save 50% on both books, now through April 17, with coupon code SPRING23.
“Interaction with forests is not a choice. Only how we interact with them is.”
Forests have been around way before humankind. They master life and thought. How much do they know about time and the stars? Or about geometry and chemistry? What about grief and joy? We should ask them, just as many forest dwellers, human and otherwise, have been doing for millennia. We, humans, still need to learn to hear and understand the forests’ answers. Today, March 21, is the observance of the International Day of Forests, a date instituted by the United Nations only eleven years ago. The theme for 2023, “Forests and Health,” is a reminder of how our collective well-being, our flourishing, is deeply rooted and entangled with the fate of these sylvan landscapes—a fate increasingly compromised on account of rapacious economic systems, predatory policies, volatile infrastructures, and armed interests.
Although most of us would associate forests with wilderness and rural places, forests contribute a great deal to the health of urban populations and industrialized societies. A recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization made that link very explicit. And a tiny virus that jumped from wild animals to human hosts in 2019 and that has provoked more than 6.5 million deaths worldwide is a reminder of that entangled relationship. Interaction with forests is not a choice. Only how we interact with them is. In fact, it is only by virtue of that interaction that we cultivate our humanness.
Consider the following word: naku. It belongs to the Sapara language, the mother tongue of a small number of individuals that compose the Indigenous Sapara nation living in the Amazon, on Ecuador’s eastern border with Peru. Naku might roughly be translated as forest, that sylvan world that surrounds, welcomes, and nourishes this and the about 400 Indigenous nations that call the Amazon rainforest their home. But, unlike the source of natural resources and environmental services that the FAO describes in the aforementioned report, naku describes a profusion of sentient beings (some of animal and vegetal form, others made of more intangible but not less real components) with whom people share different degrees of intellectual, bodily, and spiritual connections. The world, hold different Sapara leaders, is naku, is forest; and to know the world, with all its ferocity and kindness, is fundamentally to engage in meaningful relations with the myriad beings that forests harbor. One cultivates one’s own humanness in the company of these sylvan worlds, as a guest of forests, not as a master of them.
What happens when these relations are severely hindered by war? That is the question that drove my ethnographic inquiry in Bajo Atrato, a region located in the forestlands located on the northwestern Colombian Pacific coast. I saw how armed conflict is an experience wherein suffering extends beyond the people, provoking a form of collective harm that is embodied by the other-than-human beings and the sentient places that compose the traditional territories of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples. Trees heavily pocked from gunfire; rivers that became floating cemeteries of trees; spiritual protectors of game that decided to keep animals out of the reach of people; snakes capable of injecting into their victims’ wounds a poison that pollutes the land that warlords had transformed into oil palm plantations; evil beings that, after having been released by powerful shamans in their attempt to protect communities from the raids carried out by armies, are now wreaking havoc, drowning people and devouring their noses and their fingers. These are some of the afterlives of war, and they have triggered a kind of ecological violence that cannot be easily tackled with the language of human rights and environmental degradation.
War, just like everyday human life, is always a multispecies effort. War, at least as it has been waged in the forests of Colombia, challenges assumptions regarding selfhood, bodies, the elements of life, and the distinctiveness of humans. And given that armed conflict compromises the web of relations through which people and different sentient beings weave their lives together, it also compels us to explore what justice means and how it can be achieved in regions where colonialism, state violence, and militarism have entangled human and nonhuman lives and shown their shared vulnerability. On the International Day of Forests, we should recall that when forests are harmed, when they run amok because of our destructive actions, not only is human health at stake, but the fate of the world itself is jeopardized, because without forests, our world will not simply be poorer. Our world will not be a world at all.
Environmental Humanities is a peer-reviewed, international, open-access journal. The journal publishes outstanding interdisciplinary scholarship that draws humanities disciplines into conversation with each other, and with the natural and social sciences, around significant environmental issues.
“Despite living on their land for several decades Aaron and Phyllis never enjoyed a full harvest from their seven mature cherry trees in Charlotte, Vermont. Each year, birds ate the cherries before they had a chance to gather them. Wanting to enjoy a harvest of the tart fruits at least once, the couple invited a dowser, Gerald, to see if he could establish dialogue with the birds to communicate Aaron and Phyllis’s wishes. Gerald arrived, settled into position amid the cherry trees and explained the couple’s dilemma to the birds. It’s understandable, Gerald reasoned, that they would want to feast on the cherries, but so did the humans. Since Aaron and Phyllis were unable to safely climb ladders, they would be willing to grant the birds full access to the out-of-reach cherries. Would the birds, inquired Gerald, accept this deal? After some back-and-forth clarification of interests and terms, the birds agreed and would leave the lower cherries untouched. That summer, Aaron and Phyllis harvested cherries for the first time. In an interview about his work as a dowser, Gerald located the origins of his cross-species communication skills in his family’s multigenerational history of divinatory practices. He mentioned his mother used the same method in her orchard in Scotland. She would designate specific fruit trees the birds could have on the condition they leave the remaining trees for humans. These giveaway plants, as Gerald called them, were switched each year in a process that required a yearly contract renewal and dialogue between humans and birds.”
The Weekly Read is a weekly feature in which we highlight articles, books, and chapters that are freely available online. You’ll be able to find a link to the selection here on the blog as well as on our social media channels. Enjoy The Weekly Read, and check back next week for something new to read for free.
Büscher and Fletcher’s book traces the controversy over two apparently opposed modes of wildlife conservation: “new” or “Anthropocene” conservation versus a “neo-Protectionist” or “new back-to-the-barriers” movement. The latter trend is essentially a reassertion of the long-dominant approach of the conservation movement, which began with the establishment of national parks such as Yosemite in the US and expanded to include a global network of parks that currently cover roughly 17 percent of the planet. These protected spaces are treated like fortresses, pristine wild areas to be cordoned off while capitalism expands unchecked around the rest of the planet, chewing up nature in the process. This model of fortress conservation was grounded in a nature-culture binary that legitimated the violent eviction of people inhabiting areas to be conserved. In recent decades, this binary thinking came under attack from proponents of the “new” or “Anthropocene” conservation, who argued that ecosystems always change and that humans must figure out how live on and manage the earth. Proponents of this approach embraced activists’ criticisms of the exclusionary impact of traditional “fortress” conservation. But their response was to suggest that the most effective way to protect nature was to give it monetary value. This position, Büscher and Fletcher argue, was essentially a genuflection before the worship of the “free” market that gained ascendency in recent decades. The result is an embrace of measures like environmental services and natural capital valuation that accommodate conservation to capitalism. Neo-protectionists have responded by doubling down on the fortress conservation approach, arguing for setting aside of as much as half the earth to “nature.” In place of these opposed (and evidently failing) camps, Büscher and Fletcher propose an approach they call “convivial conservation.” This approach, they argue, is grounded in political ecology’s critique of both the nature-culture dichotomy and growth-centric capitalism. Convivial conservation stands in solidarity with local, Indigenous movements seeking to restore nature and reinvent what Büscher and Fletcher call convivial forms of conservation that connect humans with the rest of nature. For Büscher and Fletcher, convivial conservation necessitates a shift in how we govern nature, from one based on the negative impacts of the conservation industry’s top-down, technocratic approach to one that frames biodiversity as a global commons rooted in direct-democratic decision making centered on people living with (endangered) biodiversity. Supporting a global biodiversity commons includes a call for reparations for those displaced by past conservation efforts, and the returning of land to local communities as well as the establishment of co-ownership and co-management models based on respecting Indigenous People and their rights to nature. The Conservation Revolution articulates an important challenge to neocolonial and capitalist modes of conservation today, and sets out a model that can engage and empower the people who have long stewarded biodiversity.
From its early efforts in the 19th century to its massive expansion over the past century, conservation and the creation of create protected areas for biodiversity have dispossessed and expelled Indigenous communities from their lands all over the world, becoming a vector of Indigenous removal on par with extractive industries. As protected areas have expanded globally for more than a century, cordoning off more and more land most of which is long inhabited by Indigenous communities, they have expelled an estimated tens of millions of “conservation refugees,” removed from their homes and means of survival based on their relationships to the land. In this analysis, conservation is colonialism.
Mark Dowie examines this history of conflict between conservation and Indigenous peoples and yet argues that these two groups are the most capable of preserving biodiversity. Their collaboration is crucial for the future of the planet. To meet this challenge of collaboration, Dowie confronts the history and mechanics of conservation as colonialism, identifying structural and conceptual conflicts that consistently devalue Indigenous lives and epistemologies. The chapters alternate between offering analyses of the core issues undergirding this conflict and concrete examples that illustrate those concepts. For example, the African Parks Foundation (AFP), a “big, international nonprofit” (BINGO) based in the Netherlands and financially floated by extractive and retail giants like Walmart, seeks to privatize and manage African national parks, which, in its vision, should never include the people who live there. It has thus looked away as the national governments it works with send their cops and soldiers to forcible evict conservation refugees to camps beyond park boundaries. Such deflection of responsibility for evictions is common among BINGOs, which command the conservation movement, receiving 70% of global funding while collaborating, not with Indigenous communities who receive almost zero funding, but with national governments, international banks and financial institutions (like the WTO), international agencies, large foundations, and corporations, including extractive industrial companies. This mainstream, well-funded approach to conservation is rooted in a colonial, anthropocentric approach to nature as a resource, which helps secure funding, but does little to ensure the flourishing of biodiversity. As Dowie highlights, once states and their conservationist collaborators expel Indigenous people from a protected area, new settlers and extractivists move in. The sheer presence of Indigenous communities protects those habitats. The proof is the symbiotic coexistence of Indigenous people and their lands for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Their “kincentric” view of nature as the source of life interwoven with humanity contests colonial views of nature as a place, separate from humans but subject to human control. Dowie highlights the rise of global Indigenous organizing for their sovereignty and for environmental justice, which has “literally changed the way the world regards property, the commons, and human rights” and created new models for Indigenous stewardship of protected areas. While bridging the divides between conservationists and Indigenous communities will require more than importing “traditional ecological knowledge” into colonial epistemologies, but a deep restructuring of nature-human relationships, conservationists must awaken to the truth that protecting biodiversity requires Indigenous stewardship and a stalwart commitment to preserving cultural diversity.
The #NoDAPL movement at Standing Rock, obstructing the Dakota Access Pipeline that would poison the land and water of the Great Sioux Reservation, brought together more than three hundred tribal nations, as well as non-Indigenous organizers for environmental and social justice. It set a new precedent for Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaboration. Dina Gilio-Whitaker begins from the Standing Rock water protector movement to examine the fraught relationship and potential, necessary solidarity between Indigenous decolonial movements and environmental justice movements. She emphasizes how the settler colonialism that created a genocidal structure against Indigenous people also inflicted environmental injustice. Indian history is environmental history and justice for Indigenous people is environmental justice. However, mainstream approaches to environmental justice, including analyses of environmental racism, ignore settler colonial conditions at the root of environmental destruction while simultaneously enabling Indigenous erasure. Tracing the interlocking oppression of Indigenous people and violation of the environment, Gilio-Whitaker examines westward expansion and industrialization, Indigenous enslavement, relegation to reservations, termination policies, extractive industries that have poisoned land and people, dam-building projects that flooded entire ecosystems and habitats, and other development projects. For Native people, environmental injustice emerges from the dispossession and environmental deprivation that removed them from the land, the source of their culture, food, and spirituality. And yet U.S. environmental and conservation movements trace their roots to settler colonial concepts of Manifest Destiny and “virgin lands” of pristine wilderness, leading to the model of national parks that create conservation refugees, originating in the formation of Yosemite Park and exported globally as “America’s greatest idea.” Environmental justice will require confronting this history and rooting their movements in Indigenous modes of justice. Gilio-Whitaker raises multiple examples of the collaborations among environmental and Indigenous justice movements, including the “Cowboy Indian Alliance,” composed of white settler ranchers and Indigenous communities in South Dakota, defeated the Keystone XL Pipeline. Indigenous spiritual relationships to land have also provided a key legal tool to challenge development projects that would trammel over sacred sites and destroy environments. Friction and challenges rooted in the divergent world views and approaches to nature continue to afflict these collaborations, as seen in when conservation initiatives whose success required claims to Indigenous sacred sites then get recast as benefits for “the homogenized masses that comprise the American public.” The book concludes by examining other points of potential solidarity and organizing and legal tools through which that solidarity that be forged, like formally recognizing the rights of nature and alternative land arrangements that would return more land to Indigenous stewardship. These collaborations essential for the future of the planet require a decolonial approach to environmental justice, which would “restore right relationship to all involved,” including colonizer and colonized and the land, air, and water we share.
News of the Sixth Extinction has generated a sense of deep urgency about halting the annihilation of threatened species. This urgency leads conservationists to conclude that wildlife poaching and trafficking must be stopped before it is too late. Given the prospect of extinction, it is all too easy to conclude that the ends – saving species – justify the means, including the use of deadly force. In Security and Conservation, Rosaleen Duffy examines the turn towards militarized modes of interdiction that is an increasingly common approach in conservation. Proponents of militarized conservation argue that it is a necessary and even heroic quest to save threatened species. Supporters of this approach, including NGOs, international donors, and national governments, depict critics of the militarization of conservation as naïve or even as opponents of conservation. Yet the militarization of conservation must be subjected to critical scrutiny, and alternative approaches based on more holistic and longer-term thinking need consideration and support. Duffy’s book shows how militarization focuses on the symptoms not the root causes of poaching. Security and Conservation reminds readers of the colonial history whereby some forms of hunting were defined as poaching, a term that effectively marginalizes consideration of how poverty, inequality, historical grievances, and the continuing effects of colonial and racial discourses shape understandings of the circumstances that lead to the killing of wildlife. Duffy’s work highlights the material effects of discursive constructions of poaching. For instance, in the popular documentary film Virunga, park rangers are depicted as heroes engaged in a battle with unscrupulous poachers, and viewers are asked to donate money to become part of “Virunga’s epic fight.” Yet, as Duffy shows, such militarized responses can often ratchet up tensions, leading to enmity and even counter-violence as local communities are subjected to surveillance and often deadly exclusion from protected areas. Ranger training is shifted away from holistic conservation and ecological management towards narrow paramilitary and counter-insurgency tactics, and the distinction between conservation and other forms of armed violence can blur. Duffy challenges the widespread claims that poaching is a key funding source for terrorist networks, and points to the fact that both state and private-sector actors can benefit from oppressive militarization of conservation in what amounts to “accumulation by securitization.” Studies suggest that demand reduction strategies and sustainable livelihood approaches are more effective at tackling poaching than enhanced policing and enforcement alone, Duffy argues. Given the increasing attention focused on the Sixth Extinction, Duffy’s book is an important critical voice challenging the spread of militarized violence around the world.
Fiore Longo and Ashley Dawson, editors (Common Notions Press, 2023)
The need to save world’s biodiversity from extinction is generating increasingly ambitious conservation proposals. For instance, the recent embrace at the UN biodiversity conference of the 30×30 goal of putting 30 percent of the earth’s surface behind fences by 2030 is an indication of the potential globe-straddling impact of conservation policies. But conservation at what cost, and for whom? The testimonies, analysis, and histories gathered in this volume document the resistance of individuals, ethnic groups, and a transnational movement more broadly against neocolonial conservation and the corporate greenwashing that is increasingly intertwined with the work of big conservation organizations. The voices of frontline activists heard in Decolonize Conservation! testify to the violent exclusions perpetuated by dominant models of fortress conservation. These dispossessing policies are not a thing of the (colonial) past. As the climate crisis intensifies, dominant conservation policies are only going to become more of a site of conflict, as governments and corporations look to conservation to offset and greenwash the spiraling contradictions of the capitalist, colonialist world system. Against such fortress conservation and neoliberal policies such as “nature-based services” that are its analogue, activists in the volume propose giving genuine sovereignty to the Indigenous People and local communities who have successfully stewarded the planet’s biodiversity for centuries. Decolonizing conservation is one of today’s most important—if relatively under-acknowledged—environmental struggles, a fight for land back and reparations inextricably intertwined with the global movement for climate justice.
A. Naomi Paik is the author of Bans, Walls, Raids, Sanctuary: Understanding U.S. Immigration for the 21st Century (University of California Press, 2020) and Rightlessness: Testimony and Redress in U.S. Prison Camps since World War II (UNC Press, 2016; winner, Best Book in History, AAAS 2018; runner-up, John Hope Franklin prize for best book in American Studies, ASA, 2017), as well as articles, opinion pieces, and interviews in a range of academic and public-facing venues. She is developing a project, “Sanctuary for All,” that calls for the most capacious conception of sanctuary, one that brings together migrant and environmental justice. She is co-chair of the Radical History Review editorial collective and has co-edited four special issues of the journal—“Militarism and Capitalism (Winter 2019), “Radical Histories of Sanctuary” (Fall 2019), “Policing, Justice, and the Radical Imagination” (Spring 2020), and “Alternatives to the Anthropocene” with Ashley Dawson (Winter 2023). Collaborating with Gerry Cadava and Cat Ramirez, she coedits the “Borderlands” section of Public Books. She is an associate professor of Criminology, Law, and Justice and Global Asian Studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a member of the Migration Scholars Collaborative.
TOP FIVE is a new blog feature where authors, editors, guest editors, and other interesting people associated with Duke University Press are invited to share a list of influences and interests.
Contributors to this special issue examine the heterogeneous imaginaries and social movements struggling against the social and environmental destruction of the Anthropocene—the geological era of climate change driven by a humankind envisioned as homogeneous. Recuperating the alternative worlds, orientations, and subaltern environmental movements that constitute radical historical alternatives to the Anthropocene, the authors conceptualize these alternatives as seeds of ecological insurrection, that sometimes lie dormant for years but are always ready to rise up again when the time is right. At a moment when elites have intransigently refused to decarbonize society, the contributors urge readers to look back to histories of revolt in order to broaden the repertoire of militant tactics available to face the environmental emergency.
New year, new books! Check out the great new titles we have coming out in January:
In Wake Up, This Is Joburg, writer Tanya Zack and photographer Mark Lewis offer a stunning portrait of Johannesburg and personal stories of its residents, showing how its urban transformation occurs not in a series of dramatic, widescale changes but in the everyday lives, actions, and dreams of individuals.
Chérie N. Rivers shows how colonial systems of normalized violence condition the way we see and, through collaboration with contemporary Congolese artists, imagines ways we might learn to see differently in To Be Nsala’s Daughter.
In Code, Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan traces the shared intellectual and political history of computer scientists, cyberneticists, anthropologists, linguists, and theorists across the humanities as they developed a communication and computational-based theory that grasped culture and society in terms of codes.
Lee Edelman offers a sweeping theorization of queerness as one of the many names for the void around and against which the social order takes shape in Bad Education.
Jennifer Lynn Kelly explores the significance of contemporary solidarity tourism in Palestine/Israel in Invited to Witness, showing how such tourism functions both as political strategy and emergent industry.
In River Life and the Upspring of Nature, Naveeda Khan examines the relationship between nature and culture through the study of the everyday existence of chauras, the people who live on the chars (sandbars) within the Jamuna River in Bangladesh.
Drawing on fieldwork in a Chinese toxicology lab that studies the influence of toxins on male reproductive and developmental health, Janelle Lamoreaux investigates how epigenetic research conceptualizes and configures environments in Infertile Environments.
In On Learning to Heal, Ed Cohen draws on his experience living with Crohn’s disease—a chronic, incurable condition that nearly killed him—to explore how modern Western medicine’s turn from an “art of healing” toward a “science of medicine” impacts all whose lives are touched by illness.
Joseph C. Russo takes readers into the everyday lives of the rural residents of southeast Texas in Hard Luck and Heavy Rain, showing how their hard-luck stories render the region a mythopoetic landscape that epitomizes the impasse of American late capitalism.
Josen Masangkay Diaz interrogates the distinct forms of Filipino American subjectivity that materialized from the relationship between the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship and Cold War US anticommunism in Postcolonial Configurations.
In The Spectacular Generic, Cori Hayden explores how consumer access to generic drugs has transformed public health care and the politics of pharmaceuticals in the global South.
Petrus Liu challenges key premises of classic queer theory and Marxism in The Specter of Materialism, turning to an analysis of the Beijing Consensus—global capitalism’s latest mutation—to develop a new theory of the political economy of sexuality.
In Uncomfortable Television, Hunter Hargraves examines how postmillennial television made its audiences find pleasure through discomfort, showing that televisual unease trains audiences to survive under late capitalism, which demands that individuals accept a certain amount of discomfort, dread, and irritation into their everyday lives.
Lara Langer Cohen excavates the long history of the underground in nineteenth-century US literature in Going Underground, showing how these formations of the underground can inspire new forms of political resistance.
Travelling from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean to South America and the eastern United States, the authors of Vanishing Sands, Orrin H. Pilkey, Norma J. Longo, William J. Neal, Nelson G. Rangel-Buitrago, Keith C. Pilkey, and Hannah L. Hayes, track the devastating environmental, social, and economic impact of legal and illegal sand mining over the past twenty years.
Vincanne Adams takes the complex chemical glyphosate—the active ingredient in Roundup and a pervasive agricultural herbicide—to explore the formation of contested knowledge in Glyphosate and the Swirl.
As the weather cools and the holiday season approaches, treat yourself to one of our great new December titles!
In On Paradox, Elizabeth S. Anker contends that the faith in the logic of paradox has been the watermark of left intellectualism since the second half of the twentieth century, showing how paradox generates the very exclusions it critiques and undercuts theory’s commitment to social justice.
Piro Rexhepi explores the overlapping postsocialist and postcolonial border regimes in the Balkans that are designed to protect whiteness and exclude Muslim, Roma, and migrant communities in White Enclosures.
The contributors to Turning Archival, edited by Daniel Marshall and Zeb Tortorici, trace the rise of “the archive” as an object of historical desire and study within queer studies and examine how it fosters historical imagination and knowledge.
In Feltness, Stephanie Springgay considers socially engaged art as a practice of research-creation that germinates a radical pedagogy she calls feltness—a set of intimate practices of creating art based on touch, affect, relationality, love, and responsibility.
Ain’t But a Few of Us, edited by Willard Jenkins, presents over two dozen candid dialogues with Black jazz critics and journalists who discuss the barriers to access for Black jazz critics and how they contend with the world of jazz writing dominated by white men.
In Poverty and Wealth in East Africa, Rhiannon Stephens offers a conceptual history of how people living in eastern Uganda have sustained and changed their ways of thinking about wealth and poverty over the past two thousand years.
Examining a wide range of photography from across the global South, the contributors to Cold War Camera, edited by Thy Phu, Erina Duganne, and Andrea Noble, explore the visual mediation of the Cold War, illuminating how photography shaped how it was prosecuted and experienced.
Through close readings of slave narratives, scrapbooks, travel illustration, documentary film and photography, as well as collage, craft, and sculpture, Jasmine Nichole Cobb explores Black hair as a visual material through which to reimagine the sensual experience of Blackness in New Growth.
The contributors to New World Orderings, edited by Lisa Rofel and Carlos Rojas, demonstrate that China’s twenty-first-century rise occurs not only through economics and state politics, but equally through its relationships and interactions with the Global South.
Focusing on his personal day to day experiences of the “shelter-in-place” period during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, Alberto Moreiras offers a meditation on intellectual life and the nature of thought under the suspension of time and conditions of isolation in Uncanny Rest.
In Ruderal City, Bettina Stoetzer traces the more-than-human relationships between people, plants, and animals in contemporary Berlin, showing how Berlin’s “urban nature” becomes a key site in which notions of citizenship and belonging as well as racialized, gendered, and classed inequalities become apparent.
Veit Erlmann examines the role of copyright law in post-apartheid South Africa and its impact on the South African music industry in Lion’s Share, showing how copyright is inextricably entwined with race, popular music, postcolonial governance, indigenous rights, and the struggle to create a more equitable society.
Rumya Sree Putcha uses the figure of the Indian classical dancer to explore the complex dynamics of contemporary transnational Indian womanhood in The Dancer′s Voice.
In Feminism in Coalition Liza Taylor examines how U.S. women of color feminists’ coalitional collective politics of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s is an indispensable resource to contemporary political theory, feminist studies, and intersectional social justice activism.
Hiʻilei Julia Kawehipuaakahaopulani Hobart charts the social history of ice in Hawaiʻi in Cooling the Tropics, showing how ice and refrigeration underpinned settler colonial ideas about race, environment, and the senses.
The contributors to Siting Postcoloniality, edited by Pheng Cheah and Caroline S. Hau, reevaluate the notion of the postcolonial by focusing on the Sino-sphere—the region of East and Southeast Asia that has been significantly shaped by relations with China throughout history.
Rupal Oza follows the social life of rape in rural northwest India to reveal how rape is a language through which issues ranging from caste to justice to land are contested in Semiotics of Rape.
Climate Change and the New Polar Aesthetics: Artists Reimagine the Arctic and Antarctic is a teachable book, clear enough for undergraduates and challenging enough to use with graduate students. The book engages feminist, Black, Indigenous, and non-Western perspectives to address the exigencies of the experience of the Anthropocene and its attendant ecosystem failures brought on by the burning of oil, gas, and coal that has led to polar ice and glacial melt, rising sea levels, deadly floods, fires, and climate-led migrations. The book addresses the way contemporary artists, activists, and filmmakers are devising a new polar aesthetics that challenges the dominant narrative of mainstream media, which equates climate change with apocalyptic spectacles of melting ice and desperate polar bears, and green capitalism with masculinist imagery of sublime wilderness and imperial heroics.
In what follows I present many different threads that you can use to connect the book to an already existing syllabi in a diverse range of courses. For those who have already taught my earlier books or articles but especially Gender on Ice: American Ideologies of Polar Expeditions (1993), you might also be interested in teaching this one as some of the artists were influenced by my earlier writings.
For feminist art history, visual culture or design classes, teachers might be interested in teaching Chapters 1 and 2. Though at first glance climate art and film on the polar region and the Circumpolar North might seem gender and race neutral, the feminist intersectional analysis of representation of the Arctic and Antarctic in these chapters suggests that this welcome reemergence of interest in polar narratives and art often comes wrapped in a colonial nostalgia for white male heroism. Chapter 1 on Antarctica focuses on four contemporary women artists — Anne Noble, Judit Hersko, Connie Samaras, and Joyce Campbell — whose work collectively creates a specifically feminist critical aesthetics that counters such an approach, since their art addresses the historic exclusion of women altogether from the continent until the 1960s and 1970s and the way the visual tropes of Antarctica as the last great wilderness on earth contribute to maintaining the perception that Antarctica is still an all-male continent or a living memorial to this earlier moment when only men could populate the continent.
Chapter 2 might also be of interest since it complicates official polar exploration art by creating plausible, yet fictional, accounts based on the historical record to address the climate crisis. Isaac Julien’s reformulation of the African American polar explorer Matthew Henson (1866 – 1955) not only makes Henson’s accomplishments part of northern polar exploration but creates a new fictional persona for him that challenges mainstream homophobic narratives of imperial heroics. Swedish artist Katja Aglert, in her conceptual project Winter Event — Antifreeze, uses a variety of media and aesthetic techniques to unsettle colonialist and nationalist masculinist history as the major mode of engagement in the Arctic till this day.
In Chapter 3 there is work on the new polar aesthetics that addresses questions of memory and what it means to make art and film about a warming Arctic without sentimentalizing or spectacularizing Indigenous suffering. Film and media studies scholars might be interested in my discussion of three innovative short films on the Arctic that call forth new representations of the climate crisis that focus on a world beset by uncertainty. An online documentary by Zacharias Kunuk and Ian Munro, titled Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change (2010), takes the perspective of an Igloolik community highly affected by climate change. It puts front and center communities from Canada’s Circumpolar North, who craft a decolonial method of knowledge production through filmmaking.
Chapters 4 and 5, cowritten with Elena Glasberg, suggests that the category of art continues to change as artists create new aesthetic arrangements of visibility capable of comprehending the material and representational aspects of climate breakdown (Roni Horn, Amy Balkin, Lillian Ball, Andrea Bowers and Annie Pootoogook). Artists and art historians might be interested in teaching these chapters as artists discussed in this section focus on some of these new aesthetic practices and the way they sensitize us to the unfolding process of climate breakdown. They also might be adopted in more general classes that include the iconic photography of Yosemite by Ansel Adams and Carleton Watkins and coverage of the pieces of land art or environmental art from the 1960s or 1970s. Teachers could juxtapose these earlier works with those emerging from Indigenous, feminist and non-western contexts in the Circumpolar North (Subhankar Banerjee, Andrea Bowers, Amy Balkin, amongst others) to consider a wider range of new directions in art, photography, and conceptual art that engages landscape, environment and ecology. Such approaches contest older romantic views of pristine nature in the Arctic that continues to be used to justify Indigenous absence rather than presence.
Again scholars of visual culture, film and media studies might be interested in Chapter 6 that focuses on innovative new-media films that take into account increased development by the oil industry, local knowledge, and the resilience of Indigenous communities. Combining strategies from documentary and speculative fiction genres, while incorporating scientific fact, these films demonstrate the challenges of representing the built-in invisibilities of climate change as well as the corporate obfuscations of the damage caused by extractivism. The chapter discusses experimental projects by the Swiss video artist Ursula Biemann and the Canadian filmmaker Brenda Longfellow to bring awareness to what is not otherwise fully visible by creating new forms of perception and representational framings that capture the intricacies of visibility.
Chapter 7 focuses on more collaborative and participatory forms of art and film to move students past the psychic numbing of being overwhelmed by climate change while demonstrating their own political agency as central to imagining and constructing a better world. Activist artists such as Liberate Tate, the British Platform collective, Not an Alternative, and the Yes Men express a desire for change within the museum system of sponsorship, governance, and finance. Their work aims at holding Western art, natural history, and science museums to account for their complicity through the solicitation and acceptance of corporate sponsorship, in enabling climate change and perpetuating the colonial narratives that underlie it.
The later chapters might be taught in a wider range of courses since they show how historically under-represented groups are also pioneering new forms of environmental justice work in their resistance, and this, too, applies to Arctic Inuit women activists discussed in this book, such as Sheila Watt-Cloutier who movingly demanded “the right to be cold.” Watt-Cloutier has been instrumental in shaping an environmental justice campaign and has been widely recognized for suggesting that climate change is a matter of both Indigenous and multispecies survival (chapters 6, 7 and epilogue). For her “if we don’t have our environment, we cannot survive. “ Artists, writers, activists, and filmmakers in Climate Change and the New Polar Aesthetics share her vision in creating an alternative voice for the future, one opposed to the seemingly inevitable colonial imaginary for which the environment is a means that supports the ends of unregulated capitalism and hyperextractivism.
Lisa E. Bloom is Scholar-in-Residence at the Beatrice Bain Research Group in the Department of Gender and Women’s studies, University of California, Berkeley, and author of Gender On Ice: American Ideologies of Polar Expeditions. We invite you to request an exam copy on our website, and your students can save 30% on Climate Change and the New Polar Aesthetics with coupon E22BLOOM.
Fall is in full swing, so curl up with a hot drink, a cozy sweater, and a new book! Check out our October releases.
Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood is John D’Emilio’s coming-of-age story in which he takes readers from his working-class Bronx neighborhood and Columbia University to New York’s hidden gay male subculture and the political and social upheavals of the late 1960s. You can catch John D’Emilio discussing his book at the Calandra Italian American Institute in New York City later this month.
Exploring her attraction to tininess and the stories of those who share it, Barbara Browning offers a series of charming short essays that plumb what it means to ponder the minuscule in The Miniaturists.
Gavin Butt tells the story of the post-punk scene in the northern English city of Leeds in No Machos or Pop Stars, showing how bands ranging from Gang of Four, Soft Cell, and Delta 5 to Mekons, Scritti Politti, and Fad Gadget drew on their university art school education to push the boundaries of pop music. Butt will launch his book at an exciting event in Leeds this month, featuring performances by Scritti Politti and The Mekons77.
In Fragments of Truth, Naomi Angel analyzes the visual culture of reconciliation and memory in relation to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Canada established in 2008 to review the history of the Indian Residential School system, a brutal colonial project that killed and injured many Indigenous children.
Drawing on the archives of the Black Panther Party and the National Black Women’s Health Project, Sami Schalk explores how issues of disability have been and continue to be central to Black activism from the 1970s to the present in Black Disability Politics. Schalk launches her book at an event at the Ford Foundation in New York City on October 26.
In Changing the Subject, Srila Roy traces the impact of neoliberalism on gender and sexuality rights movements in the Global South through queer and feminist activism in India. Roy is speaking about her book at The New School and Columbia University later this month.
Filipe Maia offers a theological reflection on hope and the future in the context of financialized capitalism in Trading Futures, arguing that the Christian vocabulary of hope can provide the means to build a future beyond the strictures of capitalism.
Coming from the worlds of cultural anthropology, geography, philosophy, science fiction, poetry, and fine art, editors Sophie Chao, Karin Bolender, and Eben Kirksey and the contributors to this volume of The Promise of Multispecies Justice consider the possibility for multispecies justice and speculate on the forms it would take. The authors have developed a multimedia website where you can learn more about this collection.
In Health in Ruins, César Ernesto Abadía-Barrero assesses neoliberalism’s devastating effects on a public hospital in Colombia and how health care workers resisted defunding.
Jovan Scott Lewis retells the history and afterlife of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre and its century-long legacy of dispossession in Violent Utopia, placing it in a larger historical and social context of widespread anti-Black racism and segregation in Tulsa and beyond.
In a new revised and expanded twentieth anniversary edition of his classic book Big Game, Small World, sportswriter Alexander Wolff travels the globe in search of what basketball can tell us about the world, and what the world can tell us about the game.
AnaLouise Keating provides a comprehensive investigation of the foundational theories, methods, and philosophies of Gloria E. Anzaldúa in The Anzaldúan Theory Handbook.
Nomenclature collects eight volumes of Dionne Brand’s poetry published between 1983 and 2010, as well as a new long poem, the titular Nomenclature for the time being.
For Peer Review Week this year we are sharing some excerpts from recent books that discuss the ideas encompassed by this year’s theme, “Research Integrity: Creating and supporting trust in research.” Today’s post is an excerpt from Pollution Is Colonialism by Max Liboiron.
The joke was old even before it appeared in print:
The Lone Ranger and Tonto find themselves surrounded by hostile Indians. The Ranger asks Tonto: “What are we going to do, Tonto?” To which Tonto replies: “What do you mean we, white man (or paleface, or kemo sabe, depending on the version)?”
Its racist ancestry is undeniable: the joke partly evokes the picture of a feckless subordinate who will treacherously abandon his superior at the first sign of trouble — usually with the ethnic or social group to which the subordinate belongs. But even before 1956, ancient variants of the joke were meant to deflate the condescension of individuals who used the royal “we,” and the insulting presumption of people who assumed, for their own purposes, what they had no business assuming.1
We is rife with such assumptions. A familiar, naturalized narrative about environmental pollution is that We are causing it. We are trashing the planet. Humans are inherently greedy, or wasteful, or addicted to convenience, or naturally self-maximizing, and are downright tragic when it comes to “the” commons. On the other side of the coin, We must rise up, work together, refuse plastic straws, act collectively, and put aside our differences.
I’m not going to dwell on how We erases difference and power relations or how it makes a glossy theory of change that doesn’t allow specific responsibility.2 Here, I want to focus on responsibility — the obligation to enact good relations as scientists, scholars, readers, and to account for our relations when they are not good. And you can’t have obligation without specificity. We isn’t specific enough for obligation. You know this — an elder daughter has different obligations than a mail carrier, and you have different obligations to your elder daughter than to the mail carrier. DuPont has different obligations to plastic pollution than someone with a disability who uses a straw to drink. Even though I’m sure you’ve heard that “everything is related” in many Indigenous cosmologies, this doesn’t mean there is a cosmic similitude of relations. You are not obliged to all things the same way.3 Hence there is a need for specificity when talking about relations.
There can be solidarity without a We. There must be solidarity without a universal We. The absence of We and the acknowledgement of many we’s (including those to which you/I/we do not belong4) is imperative for good relations in solidarity against ongoing colonialism and allows cooperation with the incommensurabilities of different worlds, values, and obligations. There are guidebooks to doing careful, specific solidarity work across difference.5 Indigenous science and technology studies (STS) scholar Kim TallBear has written about “standing with” as a methodological approach to doing research in good relation. In her work, she writes that she “had to find a way to study bio-scientists (whose work has profound implications for indigenous peoples) in a way in which I could stand more within their community,” rather than critiquing them from a place of confrontation and not-caring— an approach that she argues is bad feminist practice. She now moves “towards faithful knowledges, towards co-constituting my own knowledge in concert with the acts and claims of those who I inquire among.”6 Indigenous peoples, settlers, and others have different roles and responsibilities in the “challenge to invent, revive, and sustain decolonizing possibilities and persistences.”7 Rather than fixing or saving one another, “giving back,”8 or assuming that ongoing colonial Land relations only harm Indigenous people, “within the condition of alterlife the potential for political kinship and alter-relations comes out of the recognition of connected, though profoundly uneven and often complicit, imbrications in the systems that distribute violence.”9 This is investment without assumed access to our subjects and areas of research.
Max Liboiron is Associate Professor of Geography at Memorial University. Pollution Is Colonialism is available for 30% off on our website with coupon SAVE30.
Hello, Reader! Thank you for being here. These footnotes are a place of nuance and politics, where the protocols of gratitude and recognition play out (sometimes also called citation), where warnings and care work are carried out (including calling certain readers aside for a chat or a joke), and where I contextualize, expand, and emplace work. The footnotes support the text above, representing the shoulders on which I stand and the relations I want to build. They are part of doing good relations within a text, through a text. Since a main goal of Pollution Is Colonialism is to show how methodology is a way of being in the world and that ways of being are tied up in obligation, these footnotes are one way to enact that argument. Thank you to Duke University Press for these footnotes.
1. Ivie, “What Do You Mean ‘We,’ White Man?” Also see Heglar, “Climate Change Ain’t the First Existential Threat”; Hecht, “African Anthropocene”; and Whyte, “Is It Colonial Déjà Vu?” All of these pieces break out of the violence and myopia of “we” as a way to critique mainstream environmental narratives, including the notion of the Anthropocene (which is also a key critique in Murphy, “Alterlife and Decolonial Chemical Relations”).
2. If you want some more of that, see M. Liboiron, “Against Awareness, for Scale”; and M. Liboiron, “Solutions to Waste.” There is also an entire chapter on the problems of We in a currently in-progress manuscript called Discard Studies that I am writing with excellent collaborator Josh Lepawsky (settler).
3. The idea that obligations are specific is put into practice by many different Indigenous thinkers, but this guiding principle is not exclusive to Indigenous groups. I think of New Orleans activist Shannon Dosemagen (unmarked), director of the Public Lab for Open Technology and Science, whose understandings of relations as the primary source, goal, and ethic of community science have led to a career in bringing people together in a good way and building technologies and platforms to support those relations. See Dosemagen, Warren, and Wylie, “Grassroots Mapping.” I also think about Labrador-based scholar Ashlee Cunsolo (settler), director of the Labrador Institute, whose directorship is premised on building and maintaining relations in a context of complex geopolitics and competing interests, and who exemplifies humility, generosity, and gratitude in every setting I’ve seen her in. See Cunsolo and Landman, Mourning Nature. Shannon and Ashlee, thank you for your examples of putting the relational politics that so many people talk about into practice in ways that far exceed the cultural and ethical norms of your existing institutions. It has been a great gift being activist-administrators with you.
4. Acknowledging where you do not belong while remaining aligned with those who do seems to be one of the more difficult lessons of allyship. I recently attended an “Indigenous LGBTQ2S+” gathering where white and non-Indigenous allies were thanked for attending, but then asked to leave so we could build a certain type of community. The settler sitting beside me didn’t leave. She was clearly nervous and unsure of what to do, but her inability to choose the embarrassment of standing up and leaving, and thereby outing herself as a white person, over the choice to stay in a place she had been asked to leave by those she was there to support meant that she probably isn’t ready for the even harder choices involved with Indigenous queer folk. Because of her choice, I had to take time to teach her when she was ignorant of something a speaker said. You can stand with a group without standing in their midst. In fact, sometimes standing-with-but-over-there is the best place to stand. A similar story is told by Sara Ahmed in the context of trying to have a Black Caucus professional meeting in On Being Included. I’m sure you have your own stories.
5. Land, Decolonizing Solidarity; Gaztambide-Fernández,“Decolonization and the Pedagogy of Solidarity”; Walia, “Decolonizing Together”; TallBear, “Standing with and Speaking as Faith”; Amadahy and Lawrence, “Indigenous Peoples and Black People in Canada.”
6. TallBear, “Standing with and Speaking as Faith,” 5. Thank you, Kim, for your big, bold, Out-in-public work and thinking as well as your tableside, quieter talks. I’m sure you know that your work — written scholarship, Twitter essays and jokes, gathering and organizing — props the door open for so many others, and for this I am grateful. Also, love the hair. Maarsi, Kim.
7. Murphy, “Against Population, towards Alterlife,” 122 – 23.
8. TallBear writes about Gautam Bhan’s (Indian) notion of “continuous and multiple engagements with communities and sites of research rather than a frame of giving back,” which maintains a benevolent narrative of wealth and deficit. TallBear, “Standing with and Speaking as Faith,” 2.
9. Murphy, “Against Population, towards Alterlife,” 120.
Summer is almost here! Kick off the new season with some of the great new titles we have coming out in June.
Perfect for vacation reading, Shola von Reinhold’s decadent queer literary debut LOTE immerses readers in the pursuit of aesthetics and beauty, while interrogating the removal and obscuring of Black figures from history.
Examining the reception of evolutionary biology, the 1925 Scopes Trial, and the New Atheist movement of the 2000s, Donovan O. Schaefer theorizes the relationship between thinking and feeling by challenging the conventional wisdom that they are separate in Wild Experiment.
In Gridiron Capital, Lisa Uperesa charts the cultural, historical, and social dynamics that have made American football so central to Samoan culture.
Thulani Davis provides a sweeping rethinking of Reconstruction in The Emancipation Circuit, tracing how the four million people newly freed from bondage created political organizations and connections that mobilized communities across the South.
In The Small Matter of Suing Chevron, Suzana Sawyer traces Ecuador’s lawsuit against the Chevron corporation for the environmental devastation resulting from its oil drilling practices, showing how distinct legal truths were relationally composed of, with, and through crude oil.
In Discovering Fiction, eminent Chinese novelist Yan Lianke offers insights into his views on literature and realism, the major works that inspired him, and his theories of writing.
The contributors to Grammars of the Urban Ground, edited by Ash Amin and Michele Lancione, develop a new conceptual framework and vocabulary for capturing the complex, ever-shifting, and interactive processes that shape contemporary cities.
In Myriad Intimacies, Lata Mani oscillates between poetry and prose, genre and form, register and voice, and secular and sacred to meditate on the ways in which everyone and everything exists in mutually constitutive interrelations.
Working at the intersection of urban theory, Black studies, and decolonial and Islamic thought, AbdouMaliq Simone offers a new theorization of the interface of the urban and the political in The Surrounds.
Sophie Chao examines the multispecies entanglements of oil palm plantations in West Papua, Indonesia in her new book In the Shadow of the Palms, showing how Indigenous Marind communities understand and navigate the social, political, and environmental demands of the oil palm plant.