Between Improvement and Sacrifice: Othering and the (Bio)political Ecology of Climate Change


Andreucci, Diego, and Christos Zografos, “Between Improvement and Sacrifice: Othering and the (Bio)political Ecology of Climate Change.” Political Geography 92: 102512.

Authors: Diego Andreucci, Christos Zografos


In this article, we argue that othering is central to the government of climate change. Critically engaging with Foucault’s ideas on biopolitics and racism, we elaborate a conceptual perspective for analysing how such a “technology of government” operates. We review diverse literatures from geography, political ecology, critical adaptation studies and the environmental humanities dealing with discursive constructions of the other in three exemplary areas of intervention—mitigation (particularly “green” mineral extraction for renewable energy production); constructions of “vulnerability” in adaptation policies; and the governing of “climate migrants”. We contend that these interventions largely work through the extension of capitalist relations, underpinned by racist and colonial ways of seeing populations and territories as “in need of improvement”. And that, by legitimising and depoliticizing such interventions, and by suspending responsibility for their unwanted or even deadly im- pacts, othering helps to preserve existing relations of racial, patriarchal and class domination in the face of climate-induced social upheavals. Othering, we conclude, is not only a feature of fossil fuelled development, but a way of functioning of capitalist governmentality more broadly—which has important implications for thinking about emancipatory and climate-just transformations.

Keywords: political ecology, othering, climate change, climate migrants, biopolitics, racism, just transitions, sacrifice zones, development, green extractivism, Green New Deal, postcolonial theory

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Development, Displacement & Migration, Climate Displacement, Environment, Climate Change, Extractive Industries, Infrastructure, Energy, Land Grabbing, Land Tenure

Year: 2022

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