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Chronotopic Landscapes of Environmental Racism

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Abstract

This article examines the ways in which members of a black community in Oklahoma, United States, solicit local government support for their efforts to access environmental justice resources. An important way in which they do so is by formulating chronotopic discourses that contextualize their community's current environmental problems within local historical understandings of racialized space. Their claims that racist municipal practices, both historical and contemporary, have caused the pollution and deterioration of the areas in which they reside, thereby marking those spaces as “black,” are countered by city officials' and environmental agencies' use of atemporal “color-blind” discourses. These discourses both dehistoricize and deracialize the community, and even make it possible for the residents themselves to be accused of racism. Through the construction and assertion of spatiotemporally neutral chronotopes, such “color-blind” discourses erase both history and race from the landscape while, at the same time, they effectively (re)racialize persons and communities, thus allowing institutional and environmental racism to persist. [chronotope; environmental racism; politics of space; discourse]

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