||Slow Violence and Environmentalism of the Poor
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
30 Apr 2012
While growth and pollution swim in unholy alliance along all major rivers in
the global south, consumerism triggered climate change is a way of life in the
global north. Both are an act of delayed destruction dispersed across time and
space that rarely get viewed as some form of ‘violence’ against nature.
Violence, argues Rob Nixon, is highly visible act that is newsworthy because it
is event focused, time bound and body bound. What often goes unobserved,
undiagnosed and therefore untreated is the worst manifestation of violence. Yet,
it does not get acknowledged at any level because our cultural moment is in
thrall to speed and spectacle, which has the effect of distorting our perception
of what counts as violence.
‘My central concern was to find a new way of drawing attention to the long
dyings - the staggered and staggeringly discounted casualties, both human and
ecological - that are underrepresented in strategic planning and official
memory’, says Dixon. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor
is an innovative and passionate attempt at defining ‘violence’ that is subtle
but part of our daily existence. It's a type of violence that is often bloodless
and by the time the casualties are incurred, the original fatal actions have
sunk into what is often called ‘the lagoon of oblivion.’ In the age of
regulatory oversight, the perpetrators of ‘slow violence’ conveniently build
forgetfulness into their economic strategy.
Be the dam builders or highway contractors, they invariably know that they
won't have to pay. The book aims to help activists put their finger on such
violators with the 'language' that can strengthen the widespread struggles
against slow violence, struggles that ideally are preemptive but too often are
ex post facto. Certainly, one of the most pressing challenges of our age is how
to adjust rapidly eroding attention spans to the slow erosions of environmental
justice among communities that have the least access to media power.
Written in inspiring prose, the book bridges the fields of eco-criticism and
postcolonial studies. Without doubt, 'slow violence' is a phrase that is here to
stay and for rightful reasons!
Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor
by Rob Nixon
Harvard University Press, Massachusetts
353 pages, US$ 40