Here’s a short interview with Associate Professor Manisha Anantharaman, who is in Manchester for a conference. She hopes to attend tomorrow’s Fridays for the Future event in St Peters’ Square, between 12 and 2. She’s happy to answer questions about her research – her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
a) What do you research?
My work examines questions of representation, inclusion and power within “sustainability” scholarship and movements, primarily within and from Indian cities. Sustainability researchers and proponents have to be very attentive to these questions, given the exclusive and exclusionary histories of elite-led environmental movements. In a recent publication, I call on researchers in the field of sustainable consumption to pay more attention to the conditions of oppression that make unsustainable consumption possible and normal, and to examine the ways in which sustainability initiatives reproduce or dismantle raced, classed and gendered oppression.
b) You were talking earlier about Berkeley students responding to the whiteness of the US environment movement – could you recap on that?
The Students of Color Environmental Collective created an amazing campaign and wrote a letter speaking to the environmental research and teaching community at UC Berkeley (where I got my PhD), calling out the “whiteness” that pervades the movement and articulating a set of demands around fore-fronting questions of racial justice in the environmental movement. You can read the letter here: https://serc.berkeley.. A recap of the campaign here: https://emalis6.wixsite.
c) your thoughts on the current state of the environment/climate justice movements (in which ever countries you choose to answer
I’m going to reflect on the movement in Geneva, where I am based right now. When I am at some of the climate protests and saw signs about “protecting the future of our kids and grandkids”, I always want to ask the sign-holders, who is the “our” here? I sincerely hope that they are thinking about the kids and grandkids in India and other parts of the majority world, where climate change will compound already existing suffering in terrible ways. I think the environmental/climate justice movement should not assume that inclusion is implicit or “given”, but rather activists should make explicit their commitments to thinking beyond their immediate communities. This also involves being very attentive to history and educating oneself on the histories of imperialism and its contemporary manifestations.
d) what do you think Minority World/Western activists could or should learn from struggles in the majority world
I don’t feel like I am equipped to answer this question, but I believe that movements should be lead by those most oppressed by the situation. This doesn’t mean responsibilizing the people of the majority word or indigenous people or people of color to fix the problem, but rather being willing to listen and be in solidarity. We (people like me, elites) have to practice humility. Solidarity for me is about struggle and radical love, and this is something that liberatory activists in the majority world have long emphasized.