UN3703: Climate Change and Colonialism | D. Perera

Undergraduate Seminar
Tu 2:10-4PM

In 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recognized colonialism’s contributions to the climate crisis, citing its “historical and ongoing patterns of inequity.” This was the first time that this group of climate experts had ever formally acknowledged colonialism, despite activists, writers, artists, and scholars from around the world emphasizing the devastations of colonial extractions. A sole focus on the present and future of the climate crisis obscures a deeper understanding of how the crisis came to be. This course asks: How has colonialism, namely, colonial processes of domination, extraction, control, dispossession, knowledge-making, and violence, created the climate crisis as well as enduring inequalities? How does the past intimately structure the possibilities of the present? How can an
understanding of colonialism’s “historical and ongoing” effects deepen calls for climate justice? This interdisciplinary seminar features an anthropological and historical exploration of the specificities of colonial regimes’ extractive violence against people, land, and resources. We will see how climate change is intensified through unequal social, political, and economic distributions of harm and advantage, and how climate vulnerability is created and maintained. The goal of the course is to provide students with conceptual tools for historicizing climate change, and for critically engaging the consequences of colonial relations of power.

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