Un-making Environmental Activism: Beyond Modern/Colonial Binaries in the GMO Controversy (Hardback) book cover

Un-making Environmental Activism

Beyond Modern/Colonial Binaries in the GMO Controversy

By Doerthe Rosenow

© 2018 – Routledge

140 pages

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Hardback: 9781138652279
pub: 2017-11-09
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Much environmental activism is caught in a logic that plays science against emotion, objective evidence against partisan aims, and human interest against a nature that has intrinsic value. Radical activists, by contrast, play down the role of science in determining environmental politics, but read their solutions to environmental problems off fixed theories of domination and oppression. Both of these approaches are based in a modern epistemology grounded in the fundamental dichotomy between the human and the natural. This binary has historically come about through the colonial oppression of other, non-Western and often non-binary ways of knowing nature and living in the world. There is an urgent need for a different, decolonised environmental activist strategy that moves away from this epistemology, recognises its colonial heritage and finds a different ground for environmental beliefs and politics. This book analyses the arguments and practices of anti-GMO activists at three different sites – the site of science, the site of the Bt cotton controversy in India, and the site of global environmental protest – to show how we can move beyond modern/colonial binaries. It will do so in dialogue with Gilles Deleuze, Bruno Latour, María Lugones, and Gayatri C. Spivak, as well as a broader range of postcolonial and decolonial bodies of thought.

Table of Contents


List of abbreviations

Chapter 1. Un-making Environmental Activism: An Introduction

Anti-GMO Activism Past and Present

The ‘Radical’ Argument Against Science-Based Environmentalism

Moving Beyond Modern/Colonial Binaries? The New Materialisms and Latour’s Politics of the Collective

Starting from Historical Oppression: The Problem of Colonial Difference

Chapter Outline

Chapter 2: ‘No One Knows What an Environment Can Do….’: From Facts to Concerns in the GMO Controversy


Man/Gene’s Governance of the World

Dance of Life

In Place of a Conclusion: (Un)Making GMOs in the Collective

Chapter 3. Voices and Visibilities: The Indian Bt Cotton Controversy

Who’s Speaking? Indian Smallholders and Bt Cotton

Finding a Voice in Speaking Through/With Nonhumans

The Wild Being of Statements and Visibilities

States and Machines: Thinking Differently About BT Cotton

Conclusion: Decolonising Anti-GMO Activism

Chapter 4. Travelling ‘Worlds’: The Protest of the Intercontinental Caravan

A Politics of Network? The Global Justice Movement

‘World’-Travelling and Multiple Selves: An Introduction to Maria Lugones

‘In Asia Great Leaders are Expected and Revered’: The Colonial Logic of the Intercontinental Caravan

Pilgrimage and Streetwalking: The Decolonial Option

Connecting Through ‘Things’: Becoming a Faithful Witness to Oppression

Conclusion: Towards Love and Play in Global (Environmental) Protest)


Towards (More) Reality

Reflections on Method

Sense and Love: Beyond the Monologue

Streetwalking: Developing Strategies out of Concrete Encounters

An Anti-GMO Activist Manifesto



About the Author

Doerthe Rosenow is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Oxford Brookes University. She is interested in the theorisation and analysis of political struggle in relation to understandings of nature, particularly from perspectives that engage notions of materiality and (de-)coloniality. Her research is interdisciplinary, crossing over the boundaries of International Relations, political theory, human geography, anthropology, and continental philosophy.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Place, Space and Politics

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Earth Sciences / Geography
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Human Geography