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Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor

Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor

Rob Nixon

ISBN 9780674061194

Publication date: 06/01/2011

The violence wrought by climate change, toxic drift, deforestation, oil spills, and the environmental aftermath of war takes place gradually and often invisibly. Using the innovative concept of “slow violence” to describe these threats, Rob Nixon focuses on the inattention we have paid to the attritional lethality of many environmental crises, in contrast with the sensational, spectacle-driven messaging that impels public activism today. Slow violence, because it is so readily ignored by a hard-charging capitalism, exacerbates the vulnerability of ecosystems and of people who are poor, disempowered, and often involuntarily displaced, while fueling social conflicts that arise from desperation as life-sustaining conditions erode.

In a book of extraordinary scope, Nixon examines a cluster of writer-activists affiliated with the environmentalism of the poor in the global South. By approaching environmental justice literature from this transnational perspective, he exposes the limitations of the national and local frames that dominate environmental writing. And by skillfully illuminating the strategies these writer-activists deploy to give dramatic visibility to environmental emergencies, Nixon invites his readers to engage with some of the most pressing challenges of our time.


  • Slow Violence is an important contribution to the growing field of ecocriticism… Nixon further broadens the scope of ecocriticism by bringing postcolonial studies to the table… Nixon’s Slow Violence is the first book in environmental literary studies to explore the connection between natural resource extraction and petro-imperialism… Slow Violence eschews dense prose and indecipherable academic jargon for the rigorous, clear writing of someone with the mind of a critic and the heart of a humanist. From now on, thanks to this book, no discussion on environmentalism would be complete without taking slow violence into account.

    —Subhankar Banerjee, Los Angeles Review of Books


  • 2012, Winner of the Harold and Margaret Sprout Award
  • 2012, Winner of the Transdisciplinary Humanities Book Award
  • 2013, Winner of the ASLE Scholarly Book Award


  • Rob Nixon is Thomas A. and Currie C. Barron Family Professor in Humanities and the Environment at Princeton University. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, he is the author of Dreambirds: The Natural History of a Fantasy.

Book Details

  • Harvard University Press