Stamatopoulou-Robbins’s essay begins with an unlikely meeting between two groups—Israeli settlers and Palestinian village residents—who together opposed construction of a Palestinian Authority–run landfill in the central West Bank. Attention to this 2013 moment of infrastructure-in-the-making sheds light on another, conceptual alliance. On one end, “thing theorists” argue for an understanding of infrastructures’ nonhuman, agentive capacity to assemble disparate people, things, and institutions. On the other end, political commentators propose, as many did, that meetings like this one index “environmental citizenship” premised on the recognition of common responsibility for a vulnerable environment. Both suggest nature’s physical properties—e.g., aquifers’ vulnerability to toxic wastes—seemed to have brought sworn enemies together, thereby exceeding or bypassing politics. Instead, Stamatopoulou-Robbins’s essay analyzes objections in light of the bureaucratic, calculative devices that shaped them. These devices structure the terms according to which “environmental impacts” have been evaluated in the Occupied Territories since Oslo (ca. 1995). They reveal how entrenched forms of technocratic authority produced the effect of the environment as both an abstract “good” to be protected and as ontologically “insistent” on protection. While nature seemed to demand the need for infrastructural standards (with which the occupation authorities and objectors attempted to comply), it was the standards imposed by the military occupation’s bureaucratic apparatus that reproduced the appearance of the environment as distinct from, and vulnerable to, human practice. Among some objectors, this catalyzed a need to perform what Stamatopoulou-Robbins calls “sincere environmentalism.” Doing so was aimed at avoiding accusations of “greenwashing,” which sees “false” environmentalisms as covers for politics.
Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins; Occupational Hazards. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 December 2014; 34 (3): 476–496. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-2826049
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