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Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor Paperback – March 11, 2013
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“Nixon jumpstarts a conversation between the fields of eco-criticism and postcolonial studies, and the outcome is brilliant. A landmark achievement, directed with great care, lucidity, and no end of foresight.”―Andrew Ross, New York University
“How can we dramatize slow violence? This beautifully written book shows how writers have conjured the invisible environmental calamities that have come to be the hallmark of modern times. The damage in question is out of sight--and out of mind for the global elites who command center stage. Nixon's evocative prose redoubles the charge of the writers who fight to show us the central challenge of our era. Everyone should read this book.”―Anna Tsing, author of
“This is a fine book, disturbing and revealing in content, and worthy of lengthy study.”―Jules Pretty, Times Higher Education
“The work is groundbreaking in its call to reconsider our approach to the slow rhythm of time in the very concrete realms of environmental health and social justice, as well as its investigation of both the power and challenges inherent in creative representation...Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor challenges readers to new modes of thinking through grave realities. In so doing, it makes a fundamental contribution to contemporary debates.”―Monica Seger, World Literature Today
“The previously published sections of Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor placed Nixon in the vanguard of a movement to make ecocriticism and environmentalism more attuned to imperialism (past and present), to related global injustices, and to postcolonial literatures. The book itself ensures his position among the most prominent voices of what has come to be known as postcolonial ecocriticism, part of a larger effort to open "up paths, inside the academy and beyond, to more diverse accommodations of what counts as environmental." Yet, even by the standards of this field, Slow Violence is impressively interdisciplinary and activist. Not only does it draw extensively on environmental history, the social sciences, and various kinds of journalism, it also offers keen historical and sociological insight into pressing contemporary issues. Slow Violence will be engaging and accessible to all those working in academia and beyond who are interested in social justice and its relationship with environmental change. In fact, in his role as a public intellectual, in his clear and elegant prose, and in his commitment to anti-imperial scholarship and activism, Nixon effectively follows in the footsteps of Edward Said, even as he moves to address a blind spot in Said's writing and (until relatively recently) in postcolonial literary studies: the significance of slow environmental violence for understanding imperial relationships and the often repressed ways they have shaped and continue to shape the globe.”―Byron Caminero-Santangelo, Research in African Literatures
“I thought the book was worth buying for its introduction alone, which presented the idea of slow violence and the practical and political challenges behind fighting it. The chapters that follow are a gallery of horrors: one scene of violence after another, each seemingly insurmountable and somehow less surprising than the last. Yet, remarkably, this is the least depressing environmental book I've read in years. By presenting these disasters alongside the writer-activists working to counteract them, Nixon leaves no room for despair. Instead I'm left buoyed, hopeful and--after 300 pages--impatient to learn more.”―Blair Braverman, Waging Nonviolence
“Slow Violence will, I think, become what it aspires to be: a foundational text of an "environmental humanities" that also conjugates ecologism, anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism, to be achieved through a "creative alliance" between environmental and postcolonial studies, two protagonists accustomed to ignoring each other.”―Mary Louise Pratt, Interventions
About the Author
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His hypothesis is that environmental degradation and the violence it entails is particularly difficult to pinpoint and to bring to the foreground of media and popular culture because of its lack of spectacular, condensed and vivid manifestation. Environmental damage causes what Nixon describes as slow violence, violence that is spread throughout time and space, that dissipates slowly in an area not clearly defined for months, years or even centuries (as in the case of radiation in nuclear test sites). This violence is also invisible since it can reach the cellular level through mutation and other forms of very intimate violence. The author then takes the challenge of how to describe and make this type of violence more visible and the answer he finds is through literature, with its linguistic richness, its power to tell concrete, tangible and personal stories and its various tools to turn attention to the intimate, often invisible circumstances around us. He then proceeds to locate these writers in the "Global South" that turned to literature as a way to raise the topic of environmentalism and slow violence in the attempt to show the existence of this violence to a larger audience. The result is astounding.
Not only does this work broaden our thinking about the environmental politics in the sphere of the postcolonial, it allows us to think about violence itself in new ways. Specifically, violence not simply as an effect of imbalanced political histories, but violence as a text we have to learn (and relearn!) how to read. This is a contribution that directly faces the entanglement of neoliberalism, deepening toxification of natural spaces/resources, growing economic disparities, and a widespread cultural illiteracy about questions of global crisis itself. For this reason, it's a book that speaks across disciplinary contexts more effectively than any other, in recent environmental studies.
Slow Violence is a text written in and for a cultural moment that struggles to see beyond the politics of the momentary. As such, it is an opportunity to learn to think differently about global crisis, not only in a variety of disciplinary contexts, but in the course of the everyday.