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Climate barbarians at the gate?: a critique of apocalyptic narratives on climate refugees

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date03/2013
JournalGeoforum
Volume45
Number of pages10
Pages63-72
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Climate-induced migration, and particularly the issue of climate refugees, is subject to growing attention in global climate governance. The debate on the topic sees the convergence of conflicting discourses (ranging from those of conservative European governments to southern NGOs) onto apocalyptic narratives that forecast massive, abrupt and unavoidable flows of climate refugees. Such dystopian narratives, either framed within humanitarian or ‘national security’ agendas, relegate the concerned populations to the status of victims (either to protect or to fear). This article, applying elements of poststructuralist discourse theory, analyzes the narratives via a set of influential reports on climate-induced migration and argues that apocalyptic narratives on climate refugees, although not totalizing or uncontested, represent a case of the depoliticization of global climate governance. The convergence into such narratives favors the drive towards a post-political discursive configuration, which, by supplanting politics with governance, leaves underlying power relations untouched and (re)produces present forms of representational and material marginalization. It therefore argues that such narratives, although often employed with the aim of attracting attention to a pressing issue, are detrimental for an emancipatory approach to climate change