Spatiality, political identities and the environmentalism of the poor

Featherstone, David John (2002). Spatiality, political identities and the environmentalism of the poor. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis takes issue with the claims of the radical centre that political ecology is a domain which can be negotiated by the formation of a broad but radical consensus. It uses studies of three contemporary and historical social/ political movements which have linked environmentalism and social inequality to develop a focus on the ‘ineradicablity ofantagonism’ in political ecology. It argues that this necessitates a stress on the constitutive role of power and spatiality. These movements are firstly, the UK land rights campaign, the Land is Ours and its mobilisation of a diverse political constituency around a site of ‘waste land’ in Wandsworth, London. Secondly, a project called the Inter-continental Caravan, which united activists from the Indian New Fanner’s Movements and activists from Western European green movements to contest the unequal social and environmental relations of contemporary neo-liberal globalisation. Thirdly, the political activity of the Whiteboys, an eighteenth century Irish peasant movement which contested the enclosure of common land. This case-study is written with particular emphasis on the relation of the Whiteboys to Atlantic routes of radical ideas and experience and develops an account of their influence on the London Port Strikes of 1768. This approach has enabled a focus on the agency of marginalised groups in contesting the unequal processes shaping the production of environments and on the complex histories and geographies of such agency. The thesis seeks to open up and scrutinize questions about the political identities formed through linlung environmental questions with concerns relating to social justice. It seeks to engage with how movements imagine and contest spatially stretched power relations. It argues that the way these power relations are imagined and the way movements perform distinctive ‘spaces of politics’ has effects on the kinds of political identities that emerge through their activities.

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