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Sacrifice ZonesA Genealogy and Analysis of an Environmental Justice Concept

Sacrifice ZonesA Genealogy and Analysis of an Environmental Justice Concept This article provides a genealogy and analysis of the concept of a sacrifice zone. Drawing on archival and ethnographic research, the article traces the origins and transformation of sacrifice zones from (1) a livestock and land management concept into (2) a critical energy concept during the 1970s, (3) an Indigenous political ecology concept in the 1980s, and, finally, (4) an environmental justice concept in the 1990s and beyond. The article identifies the concept’s core content and argues in favor of calling sites of concentrated environmental injustice sacrifice zones, over alternatives such as “fenceline communities” or “dumping grounds,” in part because the concept of sacrifice, derived from the Latin “to make sacred,” is polysemous, signifying both violent victimization and sacred life. This explains why some activists have employed the sacrifice zone concept to generate a positive vision for transforming sacrifice zones into sacred zones. This analysis of the concept’s development through time, social friction, and geographic mobility advances efforts to broaden environmental justice theory from a focus on distributive justice to critical and constructive engagement with culture and religion. The article pursues one implication of this study by suggesting an amendment to the concept of “slow violence”: environmental injustice is better theorized as “slow sacrifice”—a political ecology of life and death, the goal of which is to concentrate death in some places so that other places might experience full, sustainable life. Such a theory makes visible a wider set of existing cultural and religious responses to environmental injustices. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Environmental Humanities Duke University Press

Sacrifice ZonesA Genealogy and Analysis of an Environmental Justice Concept

Environmental Humanities , Volume 15 (1) – Mar 1, 2023

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References (18)

Copyright
© 2023 Ryan Juskus
ISSN
2201-1919
eISSN
2201-1919
DOI
10.1215/22011919-10216129
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This article provides a genealogy and analysis of the concept of a sacrifice zone. Drawing on archival and ethnographic research, the article traces the origins and transformation of sacrifice zones from (1) a livestock and land management concept into (2) a critical energy concept during the 1970s, (3) an Indigenous political ecology concept in the 1980s, and, finally, (4) an environmental justice concept in the 1990s and beyond. The article identifies the concept’s core content and argues in favor of calling sites of concentrated environmental injustice sacrifice zones, over alternatives such as “fenceline communities” or “dumping grounds,” in part because the concept of sacrifice, derived from the Latin “to make sacred,” is polysemous, signifying both violent victimization and sacred life. This explains why some activists have employed the sacrifice zone concept to generate a positive vision for transforming sacrifice zones into sacred zones. This analysis of the concept’s development through time, social friction, and geographic mobility advances efforts to broaden environmental justice theory from a focus on distributive justice to critical and constructive engagement with culture and religion. The article pursues one implication of this study by suggesting an amendment to the concept of “slow violence”: environmental injustice is better theorized as “slow sacrifice”—a political ecology of life and death, the goal of which is to concentrate death in some places so that other places might experience full, sustainable life. Such a theory makes visible a wider set of existing cultural and religious responses to environmental injustices.

Journal

Environmental HumanitiesDuke University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2023

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