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Edward Said’s Imaginative Geographies and the Struggle for Climate Justice

From: College Literature
Volume 40, Number 4, Fall 2013
pp. 33-51 | 10.1353/lit.2013.0049



Can viable links be established between environmental justice activists from communities in climate chaos-threatened locations in the Global North and communities of what the environmental historian Ramachandra Guha calls “ecosystem people” in the Global South? In order for such transnational links to be forged, new forms of empathy and solidarity need to be fostered that extend our political imaginary beyond the dominant geographic scales of the past—the city, nation, or region—without collapsing into a sweeping and abstract planetary universalism. Such a process of rewriting will entail an ability to see established geographies as the product of social struggles, as ways of imagining the world in order to cement or to contest hegemony. Geography, as Edward Said consistently argued, never simply involves describing the world, but rather is an inescapably political practice of world-making through representation. Considering Said alongside figures such as Antonio Gramsci and C. L. R. James, the essay argues that Edward Said’s work on what he called “imaginative geographies” blazed a path for the political and theoretical project that confronts the movement for climate justice today.

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