Tag Archives: Law’s Slow Violence

Law's Slow Violence, revisited and onwards

If you couldn’t make it to our June workshop, here is the video of the opening session:

Osgoode Hall Law School hosts “Law’s Slow Violence Workshop” with Rob Nixon (Rachel Carson, Professor of English from the University of Wisconsin). Professors Dayna Scott responding.  Link to video.

The workshop is described here, and all the blog posts leading up to the meeting, from Dayna Scott, Angela Harris, Pearl Kan, Doug Hay and Estair Van Wagner, are available here. Professor Scott also suggests this article,  The Presumed Innocence of Capitalism and Lac-Mégantic, by Osgoode Hall Professor Emeritus and Senior Scholar Harry Glasbeek:

…the only thing that is special about a Lac-Mégantic is the sudden manner in which a huge amount of harm is inflicted. The infliction of harms is a daily event; but it is experienced as atomized, isolated events, unworthy of news coverage. We hardly notice the steady dripping of blood, the innumerable illnesses, serious and minor, daily deaths and incremental deterioration of our physical environments. We are systematically desensitized to the catastrophic dimensions of the injuries that regulated profit-seekers inflict. This is an amazing triumph for harm-inflicting profiteers.

Law's Slow Violence: a continuing conversation

Thanks to the great group of people who turned up for our workshop last Friday – much fun despite some absent people who were greatly missed.  The conference is described here, and all the discussions and comments leading up to the conference, from Dayna Scott, Angela Harris, Pearl Kan, Doug Hay and Estair Van Wagner, are available here.

I am still wondering about live tweeting conferences – sometimes it’s great (when I really want to be there and cannot), but for the ordinary twitter follower, the avalanche of tweets can be a bit much.  At any rate, I do think that some things can be very helpful – for instance, tweeting the full titles and links to articles, books, and other items mentioned by conference speakers.  Below are some of the things that our panelists relied on in their remarks:

There were many more! These are just the ones that I caught.

Thanks again to the panelists and especially to Rob Nixon, as generous and thoughtful an academic as you’re ever likely to meet.  We aren’t closing off our law’s slow violence conversation yet – stay tuned for the video of the opening remarks from Rob and Osgoode’s Dayna Scott on video, and we would welcome any blog posts from panelists.

Personally, I am still stuck on the question of whether we (those) in the global North can only be reached by arguments which reference some future time in which the “violence” is brought home to us (them)– either in the form of climate change (e.g. coastal flooding) or climate refugees.  Is that the narrative that is needed? Must we “go there”?  In addition, I am still struggling with how to integrate law into this conversation, as we agreed that the representational issues that the book takes on with respect to “slow moving attritional disaster” are very relevant to legal advocates.  But on the other hand we also agreed that formal. positive law is – to an almost complete extent – wildly resistant to efforts to either halt or attempt to remedy such violence.  I look forward to getting together a reading list of articles which, in some type of case study format, detail the ways in which law is implicated both in some particular “slow” violence and in ongoing efforts to ignore, deny and conceal the consequences.  Such fine grained approaches will, I think, be a starting point to mapping the ways that lawyers and legal scholars can think about other possibilities for legal interventions in “slow violence”. Finally, I want to think more about  the place of gender in these conversations (on which consider for a start “Slow Violence, Gender, and the Environmentalism of the Poor,” Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies 13.2-14.1, 2006-2007, 14-37 (special issue on environmentalism and postcolonial literatures) (pdf).)

-à la prochaine on these points-

Law’s Slow Violence Workshop at Osgoode June 14, 2013

   poster for event contains same intormation as text on page

Friday June 14 2013  930AM to 430PM Osgoode Hall Law School IKB 1014  with Rob Nixon, Rachel Carson Professor of English at the  University of Wisconsin-Madison,  Author of  Law’s Slow Violence & the Environmentalism of the Poor, HUP 2012 and a lineup of interesting thinkers from Osgoode and beyond.


The violence wrought by climate change, toxic drift, deforestation, oil spills, and the environmental aftermath of war takes place gradually and often invisibly. Using the innovative concept of “slow violence” to describe these threats, Rob Nixon focuses on the inattention we have paid to the attritional lethality of many environmental crises, in contrast with the sensational, spectacle-driven messaging that impels public activism today. Slow violence, because it is so readily ignored by a hard-charging capitalism, exacerbates the vulnerability of ecosystems and of people who are poor, disempowered, and often involuntarily displaced, while fueling social conflicts that arise from desperation as life-sustaining conditions erode.

In a book of extraordinary scope, Nixon examines a cluster of writer-activists affiliated with the environmentalism of the poor in the global South. By approaching environmental justice literature from this transnational perspective, he exposes the limitations of the national and local frames that dominate environmental writing. And by skillfully illuminating the strategies these writer-activists deploy to give dramatic visibility to environmental emergencies, Nixon invites his readers to engage with some of the most pressing challenges of our time.


Nixon has written specifically on how gender figures in these arguments:

Nixon, Rob. “Slow Violence, Gender, and the Environmentalism of the Poor.” Environment at the Margins: Literary and Environmental Studies in Africa (2011): 257-285 available in PDF (open source!) here.

Registration at this workshop is Free but Limited

RSVP www.osgoode.yorku.ca/research/rsvp  Event Code SLOW

Order the book from Harvard University Press here  Order the book from Chapters/Indigo bookstores here.

We will be hosting a series of guest posts on the subject of this conference on the IFLS blog – watch this space.  If your scholarship connects, and you want to contribute – let us know.

Read Professor Dayna’ Scott’s review of the book (published in the Osgoode Hall Law Journal) on SSRN, here.

Click here for more info, schedule, participant bios.