Decarbonization without dispossession? Just Transitions against/beyond Racial Capitalism and Settler Colonialism

The narrative of just transitions has gained mainstream attention (once again) as the climate  crisis becomes increasingly central to political discourse. For some, it represents a new existential threat to modern society, while for others it represents an intensification of long-standing patterns of violent dispossession and nature-making that have been core features of racial capitalism and colonialism for hundreds of years (Bonds & Inwood, 2016; Dorries, Hugill, & Tomiak, 2019; Robinson, 1987, 2005; Wolfe, 2006).


Proposals and platforms such as the many variants of a Green New Deal offer a wide range of visions for state-facilitated infrastructural transitions, meant to “solve” the worst of the climate crisis while avoiding (what are considered to be) unnecessary and politically unpalatable, disruptions of socioeconomic life. This has meant, on the one hand, a great deal of focus on “green jobs” at the center of just transition narratives, and the hope that a new and newly funded green economy will provide ample opportunities for gainful employment. And on the other hand, a focus on sociotechnical transformations (renewable energy chief amongst them) that can allow the affordances of energy-intensive (fossil fueled) lifestyles to persist indefinitely. 


Meanwhile, proposals for energy justice or energy democracy look beyond simply expanding employment opportunities, by questioning instead underlying relationships of ownership and control. Similarly, proposals coming from land-based movements, such as Red Nation, Via Campesina or the Agroecology Research-Action Network center questions of land justice - or sovereignty, and with this possibility of a rematriation of lands to those indigenous nations and peoples that have been dispossessed in the name of progress.


How, we wonder, can we make sense of these complex, interconnected and at times antagonistic visions of a possible and necessary “just” transition? What sorts of justice are implied by the term and for whom? How do questions of petromasculinity (Daggett 2018), settler coloniality, green growth and ecomodernisation reckon with perspectives focused alternatively on feminist and decolonial energy futures (Wilson 2018), with black and indigenous futurities (Tuck & Gaztambide-Fernández 2013), with degrowth (D'Alisa et. al. 2014) and ecosocialism?


We invite papers that might consider any of the following:


  • The shifting global (and local) geographies of environmentally destructive labor - demanded both by the persistence of the fossil-fueled economy as well as the emergence of new, “green” industries with their own extractive needs, hence resulting in new and newly intensified sites of toxicity, extinction, seepage and exhaustion (Mulvaney, 2014). What are the political ecologies of ‘clean’ and ‘renewable’ technologies (energy, agriculture, materials, etc.) (Behrsin, 2020; Huber & McCarthy, 2017, Zehner, 2012)? Are there nonetheless still important opportunities for liberatory eco-technologies (Powell, 2006; White, 2008) in new sites and scales of technological change and autonomy (Buck 2019)?

  • What sorts of frontier mentalities (Knuth, Potts, & Goldstein, 2019; Wolfe, 2011; Yiftachel, 1996) persist through various forms of eco-modernization and green growth? How do we make sense of “Green” dispossessions (whether in the form of urban renewal, land grabs, water management, or otherwise) (Anguelovski, Irazábal‐Zurita, & Connolly, 2019; Baka, 2017; Benjaminsen & Bryceson, 2012; Doshi, 2019)?

  • Narratives of green jobs, green growth, and other ways of presenting just transition as relatively non-disruptive reforms of global capitalist social relations (Andreucci, García-Lamarca, Wedekind, & Swyngedouw, 2017; Knuth, 2019) What role(s) do labor unions/organizations play in this discussion, from unions representing industrial and manufacturing workers to those representing service and care based workers, to organizations representing small farmers, immigrant and un-statused workers?

  • What sorts of internationalisms are either implied or explicitly defined through various approaches to a just transition? (Estes 2019) What are the possible futures emergent in social movements and activism? Are these rooted in a politics of care, repair, and mutual aid? Are they strengthening right-wing, ethno-nationalist and authoritarian populisms? How do we reckon with the real and present threat of eco-apartheid, eco-fascism and what Parenti (2011) calls “armed lifeboat” politics? 


Please send abstracts to Anthony Levenda ( and Jesse Goldstein ( by November 17, 2019. Registration for the conference closes on December 1st, 2019. 


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