Postcolonial Critique of Environmental Justice: A Discourse Analysis of United Nations Documents on Post-Invasion Iraq and Afghanistan

  • Author / Creator
    Erfani Hossein Pour, Rezvaneh
  • This thesis offers a postcolonial understanding of power relations in environmental justice discourse. The main argument of this research is that environmental justice can be seen not only from a postcolonial point of view, but also as a postcolonial issue. The intellectual contribution of the postcolonial perspective in the context of environmental justice is to reveal the colonial, neocolonial, imperial and settler colonial assumptions underlying the policies and the interlocking power structures and violence associated with making these policies. It also illuminates the foundations, prerequisites, and requirements for creating opportunities to decolonize the environmental justice discourse in particular and development discourse in general. I use the approaches of Michel Foucault, especially his notions of discourse, power/knowledge and governmentality to address discursive power struggles in the growing field of environmental justice. This qualitative research is undertaken by applying the approach of Norman Fairclough to Critical Discourse Analysis to empirically analyze the exercise of discursive power in the use of language in environmental justice scholarship and policy making. In the first part of the research, I analyze the most referred definitions of the term environmental justice in the academic literature and discursively examine how their framing, claim-making, and interpretation of justice produce and introduce power within and around the notion of environmental justice. My findings show that all the dominant definitions of environmental justice in the academic discourse originate in the United States and implicitly include the assumption of exploiting the environment. Analyzing United Nations policy documents on environmental aspects of rebuilding post-invasion Iraq and Afghanistan, in the second part of this research, I explore the way the concept of environmental justice is defined, represented, and institutionalized by global administrative powers to address discursive politics and practices of policing the environment. My analysis shows that the environmental justice discourse in the documents is shaped by colonial and neocolonial assumptions about peoples of these countries as unable to govern, protect, and extract their environment and environmental resources and as in need to be ‘environed’. The two cases provide a meaningful context for studying environmental justice from a postcolonial point of view since none of the dominant definitions of environmental justice in particular, and the discourse of environmental justice in general, can capture the invasions as examples of environmental injustice.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.