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Reflections on the iconography of environmental justice activism

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The United States environmental justice movement has grown in the last 20 years from tactical cooperation between civil rights and environmental activists on hazardous waste issues into a broad-based movement for social change. As dozens of organizations invest resources in an environmental justice agenda, it is important to examine how such organizations portray their stance toward the goals of the larger movement in order to better understand tensions within the movement between social justice and environmental protection, diversity and commonality, and localized and broader movement agendas. This paper explores what contemporary environmental justice imagery tells us about this social movement through a critical discourse analysis of environmental justice organizations’ logos. The conceptual approach used here links a tradition of critical discourse analysis of textual materials with elements of a critical visual methodology. The paper examines how the social grievance of environmental injustice is constructed in relation to the social and natural world, and considers what these images tell us about the identities, relationships and modes of authority that constitute the contemporary environmental justice movement.

Keywords: environmental justice; visual discourse analysis; visual methodology

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-2502, USA, Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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