Law's Slow Violence

Osgoode Hall Law Journal, 2012

Osgoode CLPE Research Paper No. 2/2012

10 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2011

See all articles by Dayna Nadine Scott

Dayna Nadine Scott

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School

Date Written: Decmber 14, 2011


With gripping urgency, Rob Nixon’s book "Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor" seeks to reveal the “occluded relationships” between transnational economic actors and the things that tie them to particular places, such as labour, land, resources and commodity dynamics. He brings into view the bodies caught in the middle – those that have been raced and erased, made invisible, and wiped away -- by exposing the violence perpetrated against them across time and space. Nixon’s work is a broad synthesis of a seemingly disparate set of literatures in post-colonial studies, eco-criticism and literary studies. His arresting narrative engages three primary concerns: the phenomenon of “slow violence,” the environmentalism of the poor; and the role of the writer-activist in the work of making the first two ‘visible.’ Slow violence, in Nixon’s conception, is “a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all.” Because he views a major aspect of the critical challenge to be representational – the problem of devising “stories, images and symbols adequate to the pervasive but elusive violence of delayed effects” – Nixon focuses on the storytellers themselves. And the storytellers he chooses are the writer-activists that have inspired an environmentalism of the poor, primarily in the Global south. They include Arundhati Roy, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Abdulrahman Munif, and Jamaica Kincaid, among others. They are all figures who, like Nixon, demonstrate a stubborn resistance to liberalism’s urge to “locate violence outside law.” Instead of treating law as that which contains violence, they plainly confront its complicity.

Keywords: slow violence, environmentalism of the poor, environmental justice, indigenous peoples, postcolonial studies, Aamjiwnaang, Akwesasne

JEL Classification: K32, K40, K30, K00

Suggested Citation

Scott, Dayna Nadine, Law's Slow Violence (Decmber 14, 2011). Osgoode Hall Law Journal, 2012; Osgoode CLPE Research Paper No. 2/2012. Available at SSRN:

Dayna Nadine Scott (Contact Author)

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

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