The literal and literary conflicts of climate change

The climate migrant and the unending war against emergence

Authored by: Shane Hall

Routledge Handbook of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138053137
eBook ISBN: 9781315167343
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores the ways in which militarism and narratives of conflict permeate climate change discourse. Recent scholarship has shown that depictions of climate change as a “threat multiplier” abound across different political, economic, and artistic understandings of climate change. The post-9/11 security state conceives of terrorism, pandemics, insurgencies, and climate change as threats precisely in their potential to suddenly rise up and destructively emerge from an environment. Within the broader cultural fears of “emergence”—fears of insurgency, outbreak, and disaster—climate change threatens to exacerbate or incite these other threats. This chapter unpacks how the logics of emergent and insurgent threats are attributed to anthropogenic climate change. Given voice through narratives, these logics spawn their own self-fulfilling prophecies of violence. Nowhere is the insurgent threat of climate change more concretized than in the discursive construction of “climate migrants.” The discursive figure of the “climate migrant” is a powerful synecdoche of the emergent threats and possibilities climate change poses to the post-9/11 security state. I read Junot Díaz’s “Monstro” (2012) as a case study of how the “human face” of climate change is rendered a monstrous, revolutionary other.

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