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Acknowledging the Racial State: An Agenda for Environmental Justice Research

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This paper argues that environmental justice scholars have tended to overlook the significance of the state's role in shaping understandings of race and racism, and argues for the use of critical race theory to deepen insight into the role of the state in both fostering and responding to conditions of racialized environmental injustice. Critical race theory offers insights into both why and how the state manages racial categories in such a way as to produce environmental injustice, and how the state responds to the claims of the environmental justice movement. Closer attention to the interplay between the racial state and the environmental justice movement as a racial social movement will yield important insights into the conditions, processes, institutions and state apparatuses that foster environmental injustice and that delimit the possibilities for achieving environmental justice in some form or another.

Keywords: Environmental justice; racial state; racialization; state theory

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA;, Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2009


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