3rd World Congress of Environmental History

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Beyond the environmentalism of the poor: enslaved, subaltern and colonized environments

Wed, July 24, 11:00am to 12:30pm, Centro de Filosofia e Ciencias Humanas (CFH), Sala 323 do CFH


The environmentalism of the poor, which in its day renewed environmental history at the planetary level, has allowed us to know the environmental languages ​​of societies and groups outside of science, of the literate elite and the conservationist ecology that has been imposed from above. Since I came to the Runion island (located in the Indian Ocean, between Africa, Asia, Antarctica and the Pacific), as a historian I observe that the system of slavery has impregnated everything. Settlers and enslaved people modeled a virginized environment, turned into paradise, into Eden. Seen as empty, with no previous recognized population, the colonists of the European metropolis appropriated the island and its resources. The slaves brought from the eighteenth-nineteenth century and, later in the twentieth century, the African, Chinese, Indian and Tamil engagés that replaced them to work the land, could not possess it in the same way as the settlers. The marrones, and the legacy they have left as self-liberalized slaves and refugees in mountain cirques, must have been able to survive without their masters until the mid-nineteenth century. To what extent can the environmental history of these enslaved islands continue to talk about preserving the eden, as proposed by David H. Grove? Is it possible to make an environmental history of the Reunion island, and of islands, or of oases, enslaved and dominated, only from the point of view of the colonist masters? The purpose of this communication is to broaden and explore the historiographical limits, sources and proposals between the currents of a paradisiacal environmental history and the ecology of the poor of Martínez-Alier and Guha. It is possible to make a subaltern and decolonial environmental history from the South Seas.