A Language Spoken with Words: Decolonization, Knowledge Production and Environmental Injustice in the Work of Abdulrazak Gurnah





Abdulrazak Gurnah; Environmental Injustice; Climate Change; Decolonialism; Africa.


The paper analyses the relationship between decolonization, climate change, and environmental injustice as represented in the writings of Abdulrazak Gurnah. Gurnah’s work is considered an example of decolonial literature. Decolonial literature has focused on issues beyond the nature of the colonial subject, highlighting the relationship between the capitalist world economy and the formation of modern decolonial subjectivities, namely the exposure of those subjectivities to environmental injustice. The paper intends to answer the following research question: how does Abdulrazak Gurnah address the articulation between decolonization, climate change, and environmental injustice? The paper argues that Gurnah addresses such an articulation by discussing knowledge production about the colonial subject and the postcolonial self and instituting an association between environmental/climate precarity and biopolitical precarity. Building from two of Gurnah’s novels—By the Sea and Afterlives – the paper debates how Gurnah’s characters are afflicted by the racialization of social and economic relations and biopolitical and climate precarity. Questioning knowledge production about the colonial subject and the postcolonial self is significant because it underscores the importance of transforming how knowledge about climate change is produced. Instituting an association between environmental/climate precarity and biopolitical precarity permits debating how colonial and capitalist power structures are responsible for disseminating environmental injustice, foregrounding the epistemic importance of indigenous climate change studies. The work of Gurnah is critically analyzed, bearing in mind the need to discuss the relevance of addressing climate change and environmental injustice from the perspective of global south literature.


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How to Cite

Maria João, F. (2023). A Language Spoken with Words: Decolonization, Knowledge Production and Environmental Injustice in the Work of Abdulrazak Gurnah. Journal of Narrative and Language Studies, 11(21), 130–143. https://doi.org/10.59045/nalans.2023.20