Chapter 9: Postcoloniality and the North–South binary revisited: the case of India’s climate politics
This chapter uses the case study of India’s participation in global climate negotiations to shed light on the dynamics of contemporary North–South climate politics. India’s negotiating position seizes the strategic essentialism of the imaginary of the South for the purposes of distinguishing its position in climate politics from that of the North, and making a claim to its right to development and ecological space in the context of a shrinking atmospheric commons. It also engages in a politics of scale whereby the argument that the Indian state should not be asked to accept a binding cap on its greenhouse gas emissions is based on low per capita emissions of its citizens and on the assertion that India is a developing country. This chapter argues that India’s climate politics constitutes a postcolonial politics, and that we need to rethink some core approaches in postcolonialism––particularly related to the rejection of colonial binaries––in order to see it in this light. Significantly, this chapter makes a case for why political ecologists ought to examine ongoing international climate negotiations and why the scope of political ecology needs to be broadened in order to do this. Specifically, I argue that political ecology needs to engage more seriously with North–South differences that are central to contemporary climate politics. Furthermore, scholars undertaking such analyses are invited to practice greater introspection towards India’s positionality in terms of contributing to the problem of climate change as well as potential complicity in perpetuating unequal structures of power and knowledge construction in this context.
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