Magazine article World Literature Today

Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor

Magazine article World Literature Today

Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor

Article excerpt

Rob Nixon. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard University Press. 2011. isbn 9780674049307

Rob Nixon is a prolific writer who contributes frequently to the New York Times and has penned work for the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, the Guardian, and more. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor is Nixon's fourth book exploring relationships to the natural world in the postcolonial era. The work investigates the notion of what he calls "slow violence," the often invisible, ephemeral, slow-leak effects of environmental crises such as nuclear fallout, oil spills, deforestation, and war. It is primarily concerned with the effects of such violence on peoples of the global South, and the ways in which such effects are largely ignored by mainstream environmentalist rhetoric.

The book begins with a clear and thorough introduction in which Nixon lays out his primary concerns. He aims to rethink the slow violence of environmental destruction, confront the representational challenges posed by doing so, and consider an environmentalism of the poor, the primary victims of slow violence. At the same time, he celebrates those environmental writers and activists who use their own work to decry the environmental degradation wrought upon underrepresented groups. In eight dense chapters, Nixon investigates the literary tradition of the picaresque as a tool for reading time; neoliberalism and the urban poor; oil despots and the tricky notion of "resource curse"; minority water rights and the plight of the Ogoni; the particularities of gender oppression and environmental violence; modernity, imagined communities and the megadam; race and tourism; precision warfare; and the complicated relationships between environmentalism, postcolonialism, and the narrow field of American studies. …

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