Decolonize Environmentalism by Prakash Kashwan and Aseem Hasnain

About the Book

Social activists and academics who have engaged with questions of environmental justice are familiar with the problematic nature of the many strands of environmentalism. But these debates have remained limited to a narrow group of experts. The majority of young people who swear by the cause of environmentalism seem to be oblivious to the ways in which mainstream environmentalism has been complicit in social injustices of various types. However, Prakash Kashwan and Aseem Hasnain are not here to preach. The mission of Decolonize Environmentalism is to make visible the simplifications and erasures that constitute many of the radical environmental movements. It is an attempt to help reimagine environmentalism so that we can situate our collective commitment to environmentalism without exacting revenge on the very people who are most affected by environmental destruction.  

The book starts off by deconstructing popular ideas, such as ‘green consumption’ and ‘sustainable development.’ It shows that these concepts rest on misleading portrayals of nature and the environment as entities that are completely external to society. Such assumptions produce some of the most profound contradictions of ‘modernity’ which is ensconced between the existential anxieties of conquering nature on one hand and the reliance on an extractive model of development. Mainstream environmentalism has sought to address these contradictions by locking nature in metaphorical safe boxes of an impoverished world that is concrete and asphalt at its core and has lost its foundational connect with nature. The book will showcase alternative imaginations of environmentalism founded on the values of love, compassion, and solidarity. Yet, this is not just a rhetorical vision of decolonizing environmentalism. The book will indeed distill lessons from various mobilizations around a praxis of environmentalism that is driven by the simultaneous pursuits of ecological protection and social justice.

Decolonize Environmentalism draws on cultural, intellectual, and linguistic diversity by incorporating vignettes and wisdom from folklore, adages, and poetry from different parts of the world. It seeks to explain the different ways in which environmentalism was, and remains ‘colonial,’ and how it continues to shape contemporary environmental action. Yet, this book is not a litany. Kashwan and Asnain also offer alternatives from across the world to the young passionate environmentalist. They conclude most chapters with handy tools for constructing socially just environmental action for the future.

  • Aseem Hasnain

    is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Bridgewater State University, Massachusetts. He is a political sociologist trained in comparative historical methods and his research and publications cover themes such as sectarianism, ethnic conflict, comparative human rights, predictive modeling, social movements, culture, and ideology. His current project involves racial capitalism and environmental justice in the context of sanitation work in developing societies.

A sharp set of pedagogical tools for teaching and learning about art as a vehicle for social engagement. Having evolved from an innovative collaboration between Queens College and Queens Museum, the book’s offerings are embedded in the workings of both community and artists, breaking down the very idea of what participation means in art and non-art contexts.” —Laura Raicovich, president and executive director, Queens Museum, NYC

“It’s no small thing to educate at the intersection of art and social justice. It’s a scope of inquiry that has tripped up art historians, artists, and college deans for multiple decades. This contribution is valuable to educators in its insight, pragmatism, and breadth.” —Nato Thompson, artistic director of Creative Time, author of Culture as a Weapon: The Art of Influence in Everyday Life

“As a curriculum resource, this book is most useful for artist-educators who are already doing and teaching socially engaged art. . . . Art as Social Action also provides a snapshot of the many ways in which socially engaged art practices overlap with social justice approaches to art education, particularly those that attend to power relationships between teachers, students, schools, and communities, and to the social structures that shape art education pedagogy.” —Studies in Art Education: A Journal of Issues and Research