The Violence of Othering in a Warming World
Last week Naomi Klein was the speaker at this years ‘Edward W Said Lecture’ at the Royal Festival Hall. Invisible Dust was lucky enough to hear Klein, award-winning journalist and critically acclaimed author, deliver her lecture. The lecture drew astute and perceptive connections between climate change and Said’s concept of orientalism and othering.
Edward W Said was one of the most influential intellectuals of his time; writer, activist, literary critic and spokesperson for the Palestinian cause. He is best know for his 1978 work Orientalism, in which he wrote about the process of ‘othering’ – the process through which large parts of humanity are cast as sub-human, in turn justifying violent occupation and invasion.
Klein’s captivating lecture examined how these tools of racial hierarchy are the (widely unacknowledged) partners to climate change. Fossil fuels have always required ‘sacrificial’ people and places and the process of othering has played a key role in justifying these ‘sacrifices’. Since the industrial revolution, hazardous and health degrading jobs have been done by those who lives are deemed less important by those more powerful. Today we are in a situation where the decisions of some mean letting entire ‘other’ nations drown or warm to lethal levels.
Though critical, Klein described herself as a ‘possiblist’ – not optimistic but confident that change is possible. The lecture concluded by putting forward that Said’s universalist vision might form the basis for a grass-roots, inclusive response to climate change.
Naomi Klein delivered the 2016 Edward W Said London Lecture, held in the Royal Festival Hall, and was presented by A.M. Qattan Foundation/The Mosaic Rooms and the London Review of Books.
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