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Struggling against land loss: Environmental (in)justice and the geography of emerging rights

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Due to anthropogenic climate change and the ongoing integration of agriculture into the world market economy, access to arable and habitable land has become an urgent issue within current transnational debates on environmental (in)justice. In particular, the emerging calls for 'food sovereignty' (FS) and 'migrate with dignity' (MWD) show how most vulnerable groups from the Global South, i.e. small-scale farmers and inhabitants of small Pacific islands, respond to deteriorating environments by claiming universal and emancipatory rights 'from below'. These contestations show that the struggle over land is tied not only to the potential loss of physical resources but also to the struggle over cultural and political sovereignty, as well as to the emergence of post-national forms of citizenship. In drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Bolivia and Kiribati, where these claims-FS in the former case, MWD in the latter-are currently being negotiated and fought over, this contribution aims to sketch a 'geography of emerging rights' to make transnational politico-legal responses to environmental injustice visible and understandable. Conceptually, it draws on the assumption that, by now, environmental justice research has paid too little attention to the sphere of 'the legal', and that conversely, legal geography research has been reluctant to analyze dimensions of law and social order within deteriorating environments. This contribution thus discusses analytical entry points from legal geography, legal anthropology, and political theory in order to bring these disciplines into dialogue with empirically grounded research on movements struggling for land and sovereignty.

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... At present, there exists a whole range of grassroots initiatives and newly emerging public spheres both inside and outside existing institutions that are paradigmatic for Dewey's arguments: in the last years, affected people and communities in different parts of the world have been developing very diverse answers to climate change and forms on environmental injustice. These include for instance self-governed renewable energy projects of indigenous people in Canada (Stefanelli et al., 2018), resettlement strategies of environmental migrants in the Pacific region (Klepp and Herbeck, 2016), or the struggle for food sovereignty of peasant communities in the Global South (Fladvad et al., 2020). These movements and initiatives do not only claim more protection against the structures that harm them, as well as self-determination and participation in respective decisionmaking processes, they also collaboratively create new institutional designs and seek to realize their own legal strategies of dealing with climate change and/or environmental injustice. ...
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In this report I compare two forms of racism: white privilege and white supremacy. I examine how they are distinct and can be seen in the environmental racism arena. I argue that within US geographic scholarship white privilege has become so widespread that more aggressive forms of racism, such as white supremacy, are often overlooked. It is essential that we understand the precise dynamics that produce environmental injustice so that we can accurately target the responsible parties via strategic social movements and campaigns. Using the case of Exide Technologies in Vernon, California, I argue that the hazards generated by its longstanding regulatory noncompliance are a form of white supremacy.
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This paper explores some of the perverse effects of climate change adaptation policies and financing in the Republic of Kiribati, a low-lying island nation in the Central Pacific. I examine how encounters between financiers and government officials might produce vulnerability to climate change. I draw throughout from field research conducted in Kiribati, an archetypical 'vulnerable-to-climate-change' place, and a preeminent site for experimentation in climate change adaptation. By discussing several instances where Government of Kiribati elites are required to enact vulnerability in order to secure climate change adaptation financing, I demonstrate that such encounters are performative. This research contributes to theories of performativity in showing that the matrix conditioning and compelling such performative enactments of vulnerability is socionatural, consisting of a collective of climate change impacts, adaptation-finance technocrats, and many others. Thus, I demonstrate that vulnerability is not a latent condition, but, rather, an emergent effect of an assemblage of facts, expert actors, and objects.
Book
Critical legal geography is practised by an increasing number of scholars in various disciplines, but it has not had the benefit of an overarching theoretical framework that might overcome its currently rather ad hoc character. The Spatial, the Legal and the Pragmatics of World-Making remedies this situation. Presenting a balanced convergence of contemporary socio-legal and critical geographic scholarship, David Delaney offers a ground-breaking contribution to the fast growing field of legal geography. Drawing on strands of critical social studies that inform both of these areas, this book has three primary components. First, it introduces a framework of interpretation and analysis centred on the productive neologisms 'nomosphere' and 'nomoscapes'. Nomosphere refers to the cultural-material environs that are constituted by the reciprocal materialization of 'the legal' and the legal signification of the 'socio-spatial'. Nomoscapes are the spatio-legal expression and the socio-material realization of ideologies, values, pervasive power orders and social projects. They are extensive ensembles of legal spaces within and through which lives are lived and, here, these neologisms are related to the more familiar notions of governmentality and performativity. Second, these neologisms are explored and applied through a series of illustrations and extensive case studies. Demonstrating their utility for scholars and students in relevant disciplines, these 'empirical' studies concern: the public and the private; property and land tenure; governance; the domestic and the international; and legal-spatial confinements and containments. Third, these studies contribute to an ongoing theorization of the experiential, situated pragmatics of 'world-making'. The role of nomospheric projects and counter-projects, techniques and operations is therefore emphasized. Much of what is experientially significant about how the world is as it is and what it's like to be in the world directly implicates the dynamic interplay of space, law, meaning and power. The Spatial, the Legal and the Pragmatics of World-Making provides the interpretive resources necessary for discerning and understanding the practices and projects involved in this interplay.
Article
This paper contributes to the discussion on food sovereignty and the state by analysing the case of Ecuador. It presents a theoretical framework and literature review focused on the question of food sovereignty, the state and agrarian political economy. The case study of Ecuador, one of a handful of countries that has attempted to institutionalize food sovereignty in state policy, examines the political processes that led to the institutionalization of food sovereignty and the rural development and agricultural policies of the ‘post-neoliberal’ government of Rafael Correa. The analysis of the Ecuadorian case concludes that the implementation of public policies reflecting food sovereignty principles has largely proven elusive, with the exception of some institutional changes and developments at the local levels of the state.
Article
Drawing on theories of social movements and environmental sociology, this article considers a frame transformation that is taking place within ecological social movements. This transformation produced a new frame: “total liberation.” We explore this phenomenon by analyzing interviews with activists, fieldwork observations, and documents from radical environmental and animal rights movement networks in the United States. Beyond introducing the total liberation frame, the article expands current understandings of how and why frame transformations occur through a consideration of how multiple frames, as well as intra- and intermovement tensions and influences, shape frame transformation.
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This review article situates the development of national and global food security discourses in their historical and political context. Geographical imaginations of ‘food security’ have shifted from a national to a global scale and, in some instances, back again. The dominant conceptualisation of food security, consolidated by the FAO Rome Summit on World Food Security, presents food security as a scientific problem rather than a political problem. ‘Food sovereignty’, on the other hand, is a counter-hegemonic discourse that questions the organisation of the current food system and calls for its transformation. From the global food security perspective, nation states are an obstacle to food security. Out-dated agricultural economies of the global south need to be improved through the adoption of biotechnology developed by scientists and corporations in the global north. Food sovereignty by contrast emphasises principles of rights and social justice over economics and technology. This article presents the different analyses of the problem and critically examines the internal assumptions of both discourses. We argue that the progression of the ‘food security’ debate will have clear geopolitical consequences with respect to the distribution of power in the global agri-food system and with regard to the autonomy of local communities and nation states.
Article
The failures of food security and other policies to guarantee the right to food motivate the calls for the radical reforms to the food system called for by food sovereignty. Food sovereignty narratives identify neoliberal state policies and global capital as the source of the food insecurity, and seek new rights for producers and consumers. However, the nature of territorial state power and the juridical structures of the (neo)liberal state may mute the more radical aims of food sovereignty. An engagement with literature on liberal sovereignty illustrates the primacy of the neoliberal market to the exercise of liberal sovereignty by the modern nation-state. The rights of the state to govern trade, often in the interests of capital, and the rights of trade and commerce often trump the citizen's right to food. Reading political theory against the practice of food sovereignty offers insight into solutions for food sovereignty that work within, against and in between the powers of the sovereign liberal state. These include reframing property rights as use rights, engaging in non-commodified food exchanges and practicing civil disobedience to usher in reforms without compromising on essential elements of the food sovereignty agenda.
Article
Post-Marxist and poststructuralist ontologies of the political have been important reference points for recent discussions of democracy in critical human geography and related fields. This paper considers the conceptual placement of contestation in a strand of democratic theory often denigrated by these approaches, namely theories of deliberative democracy informed by post-Habermasian Critical Theory. It is argued that this concern with contestation derives from a focus on the relationships between different rationalities of action. It is proposed that this tradition of thought informs a distinctively phenomenological approach to understanding the situations out of which democratic energies emerge. In elaborating on this phenomenological understanding of the emergence of political space, the paper proceeds in three stages. First, it is argued that the strong affinities between ontological conceptualisations of ‘the political’ and the ontological register of canonical spatial theory squeezes out any serious consideration of the plural rationalities of ordinary political action. Second, debates between deliberative and agonistic theorists of democracy are relocated away from questions of ontology. These are centred instead on disputed understandings of ‘normativity’. This move opens up conceptual space for the analysis of phenomenologies of injustice. Third, using the example of debates about transnational democracy in which critical theorists of deliberative democracy explicitly address the reconfigurations of the space of ‘the political’, it is argued that this Critical Theory tradition can contribute to a distinctively ‘topological’ sense of political space which follows from thinking of political action as emerging from worldly situations of injustice. In bringing into focus this phenomenological approach to political action, the paper has lessons for both geographers and political theorists. Rather than continuing to resort to a priori models of what is properly political or authentically democratic, geographers would do well to acknowledge the ordinary dynamics and disappointments which shape political action. On the other hand, political theorists might do well to acknowledge the limits of the ‘methodological globalism’ that characterises so much recent work on the re-scaling of democracy.
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Bolivien im Herzen Südamerikas gilt als einer der ärmsten und politisch instabilsten Staaten des Subkontinentes. Neben der schlechten ökonomischen Lage sind in den letzten Jahren vor allem die anhaltende Diskriminierung der indigenen Bevölkerung und die Korruptionsanfälligkeit der politischen Eliten immer wieder Auslöser schwerwiegender politischer Krisen gewesen. Aufgrund dieser Entwicklung wurde dem Land zu Beginn des neuen Jahrtausends ein einsetzender Staatszerfall diagnostiziert (Grabendorf 2003: 3).
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The Right to Relocation: Disappearing Island Nations and Common Ownership of the Earth Mathias Risse In recent work I have tried to revitalize the standpoint of humanity's commonly owning the earth. This standpoint has implications for a range of problems that have recently preoccupied us at the global level, including immigration, obligations to future generations, climate change, and human rights. In particular, this approach helps illuminate what moral claims to international aid small island nations whose existence is threatened by global climate change have. A recent proposal for relocating his people across different nations by President Tong of Kiribati is a case in point. My approach vindicates President Tong's proposal.