Contradictions of Solidarity

Whiteness, Settler Coloniality, and the Mainstream Environmental Movement

in Environment and Society
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  • 1 University of Manitoba joe.curnow@mail.umanitoba.ca
  • 2 University of Toronto anjali.helferty@mail.utoronto.ca
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ABSTRACT

In this article, we trace the racialized history of the environmental movement in the United States and Canada that has defined the mainstream movement as a default white space. We then interrogate the turn to solidarity as a way to escape/intervene in the racialized and colonial underpinnings of mainstream environmentalism, demonstrating that the practice of solidarity itself depends on these same racial and colonial systems. Given the lack of theorization on solidarity within environmentalism, we draw on examples of solidarity work that bridge place and power and are predicated on disparate social locations, such as in accompaniment or the fair trade movement. We conclude that the contradictions of racialized and colonial solidarity should not preclude settler attempts to engage in solidarity work, but rather become inscribed into environmentalist practices as an ethic of accountability.

Contributor Notes

JOE CURNOW is Assistant Professor at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Education. Her work focuses on learning, antiracism, and decolonization in social movements, including the fossil fuel divestment campaign and the fair trade campaign. She previously served as the National Coordinator for United Students for Fair Trade and worked as an anti-oppression educator for international student campaigns. Her doctoral work was supported the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. Email: joe.curnow@mail.umanitoba.ca

ANJALI HELFERTY is a PhD candidate in Adult Education and Community Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. She worked in a variety of leadership positions in the youth climate change movement in the United States and Canada. Her doctoral work is supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canada Graduate Scholarship. Email: anjali.helferty@mail.utoronto.ca

Environment and Society

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