A Climate of Hope

by Bill Ashcroft

Postcolonial ecocriticism has emerged gradually over the last couple of decades as the differences between postcolonialism and environmentalism have been overcome. Those differences have centred on an assumed conflict in the way the two discourses see the world. However, the colonial roots of environmental degradation and the growing postcolonial critique of the effects of imperialism have seen a growing alliance focused in the discipline of postcolonial ecocriticism. Postcolonial critique and environmentalism have found common interest in the role of imperialism and capitalism in the rapidly degrading anthropocene. However critique has not often led to a clear vision of a possible world. This paper suggests a new alliance – between postcolonial critique, environmentalism and utopianism – one that emerges from the postcolonial realisation the no transformation can occur without the hope inspired by a vision of the future. The paper asks what literature can do in an environmental struggle in which colonized peoples environmental struggle in which colonized peoples are among the worst affected. The role of postcolonial literature provides a model for the transformative function of the creative spirit in political resistance. No true resistance can succeed without a vision of change and literature provides the most powerful location of that vision – no transformation can occur unless it is first imagined.

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