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Decolonising Climate Discourse

A BSA Post/Decolonial Transformations Study Group Webinar

10 December 2020 (3.00-4.15pm)

About the Event

The global climate crisis poses one of the most pressing and most existential challenges of the twenty-first century, and powerful actors—from intergovernmental organisations to tech billionaires to social movements—have proposed solutions. But the nature of these solutions depends on how they see the roots of the crisis. This workshop delves into the imperial origins and racialised expressions of the climate crisis, and considers the potential for decolonial responses.

Decolonising Nature by Prof Nosheen Ali, New York University Gallatin
This presentation reflects on my ecology-centered fieldwork in Gilgit-Baltistan and Sindh, as well as collaborative work that explores indigenous perspectives and pedagogies of nature from the global South, specifically Pakistan and South Asia. Drawing inspiration from feminist and indigenous thought, the narratives of ecology shared here center the place of emotions, experience, memory and spiritual intimacy, offering one means of decolonizing environmental studies and expanding our understanding of ‘environmental consciousness’.

The intrinsic racialization of societal collapse: climate change and pandemics as colonial phenomena by Prof Arun Saldanha, University of Minnesota
In my presentation I build on a theoretical framework on racial capitalism I have for some years been working on to understand the sudden catastrophe of covid-19 as precipitated by the same forces responsible for the slower and more complex catastrophe of climate change. Anticolonial theory in the 1950s and 1960s provides an understanding of the "colonial situation" as involving capitalist exploitation by the West, segregation of populations based on race, the complicity of local elites, and perpetual crisis. Similarly, from how anthropogenic climate change and epidemics originate to their management and long-term ramifications, biopower attends every twist and turn of so-called natural disaster. An increasing number of theorists and scientists -- not just paranoid dystopians -- is trying to get their heads around the possibility of collapse in the near future. The question is, whose worlds are ending, and whose ended long ago as material basis for Western hegemony. While racialization does happen affectively amongst bodies, that is but the tip of the iceberg -- race goes far "deeper" than that. Demonstrating systemic racism's ecological, even geological strata, gives the lie to the dominant liberal idea that racism is overcome by merely adjusting prejudices.

Chaired by Dr Meghan Tinsley, University of Manchester