Past Graduate Fellow - Romy Opperman


Dublin Core


The term ‘environmental racism’ calls us to analyze the interrelations of racism and the environment.

Instead of illuminating this relation, dominant conceptions both of racism and the environment serve to make it opaque. Consequently, we are called to develop a new philosophical register. My project undertakes this task, beginning with Frantz Fanon’s analysis of racism as a system of violence, one which structures and saturates subjectivity, language, institutions, practices and landscapes. Re-reading Fanon from a position informed by feminist thinkers in critical science studies, decolonial and Black philosophy, I argue that ecological violence is an essential and often overlooked dimension of racist systems. My project teases out the questions this poses for history and temporality; both in terms of tracing the roots of environmental racism, and in terms of its ramifications for futurity in anti-racist and decolonial thought. Following decolonial critiques of modernity, I challenge the dominant presentation of the origin of the current global ecological crisis, which frames enlightenment thought and its legacy in industrialization as intra-European events. Historical and current carbon emissions can be understood as only one element of an ensemble of ecologically violent practices that have slavery and its afterlives as their condition of possibility. This challenges the presentism that animates debates which exclusively focus on the effects of global climate change and complicates the terms that frame climate and environmental justice. My claim is not that what is commonly referred to as ‘the Anthropocene’ cannot be the occasion for a fundamental shift, but rather that such a shift involves investigating its concealed ground in racist systems of thought and practice. I conclude that considering what Rob Nixon has called the ‘slow violence’ of ecological practices in relation to what Saidiya Hartman terms the ‘after-life of slavery’, prompts us to rethink potentialities and practices of freedom.


“Past Graduate Fellow - Romy Opperman,” Legacies of the Enlightenment, accessed June 25, 2024,