Recommended reading: Four picks from WVU Press author Nicholas Stump

Nicholas Stump, WVU College of Law.

In a new feature for the blog, we’re asking WVU Press authors to suggest books, posts, and articles worth reading. First up is legal scholar Nicholas Stump, author of our Remaking Appalachia: Ecosocialism, Ecofeminism, and Law, a finalist for this year’s Weatherford Award.

A People’s Green New Deal, Max Ajl, Pluto Press (2021)

This stunning book is among the most important works exploring a truly radical, internationalist Green New Deal. (Another such can’t-miss title is The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth by The Red Nation.) In A People’s Green New Deal, Ajl critiques mainstream Eurocentric conceptions of the Green New Deal as insufficient to combat the global socio-ecological crisis and as fundamentally unjust—as the mainstream Green New Deal is conceived of within the capitalist and imperialist world system, as dominated by the Global North. Instead, Ajl examines alternatives steeped in “decommodification, working-class power, anti-imperialism and agro-ecology,” such as a genuinely internationalist ecosocialism and principles reflected in the Cochabamba agreement. Of particular note to Appalachian environmental scholars and activists, Ajl argues that transformative change “can only build from existing strengths” within the “already-existing ecological society in the interstices and shadow-zones of colonial-capitalism” including, as one example among many worldwide, “endogenous development brigades in Appalachia.” 

How To Write About Pipelines,” Sakshi Aravind, Progress in Political Economy Blog (2021)

Aravind’s blog post, much-shared and celebrated on the ecological Left, responds to Andreas Malm’s provocative book How to Blow Up a Pipeline. This subject, of course, has special relevance to Appalachians contesting natural gas pipelines through various legal and extra-legal means. While praising Malm’s prior influential book, Fossil Capital, Aravind mounts a concise yet compelling critique of this more recent work—which is marked by a “startling whiteness of the authorial gaze and voice,” in addition to similarly problematic citational practices favoring white men. Aravind notes that it is hard “to believe that one can write about environmental activism with two vague references to Indigenous people in the passing and no mention of settler colonialism,” and that any “framework of violence, non-violence, and sabotage is meaningless if one is irreverent to the long tradition of Indigenous resistance, which has fought against the exploitation of the land by throwing their bodies in the way.” Aravind later published a brilliant book review expanding on this post.

Thirsty Places,” Priya Baskaran, Utah Law Review (2021)

This innovative law review article, which has catalyzed substantial interest and action among legal academics engaged in rural work, provides a comparative analysis of water infrastructure crises in Flint, Michigan, and in southern West Virginia. Deploying a law and political economy analysis as part and parcel of a broad critique of capitalism, Baskran argues that these joint water-related environmental justice crises highlight “entrenched structural problems present in rural and urban contexts,” which implicate “compound socioeconomic and race-related inequalities that transcend such seeming geographic divides.” Baskaran also proposes solutions that eschew technical policy adjustments and implicate structural changes—such as those envisioned by a “progressive or radical eco-socialist interpretation of the Green New Deal.” This article notably draws on Baskaran’s concrete community lawyering experience both in Michigan and in Central Appalachia. Note that “Solidarity Economy Lawyering” by Renee Hatcher is another phenomenal article exploring how community lawyering work can support such social movements explicitly pursuing transformative social change beyond neoliberal capitalism.

Y’all Means All: The Emerging Voices Queering Appalachia, Z. Zane McNeill, PM Press (2022)

This groundbreaking essay collection, edited by Z. Zane McNeill, a prolific scholar-activist from West Virginia, is an already-acclaimed and impactful contribution to Appalachian, critical, and LGBTQ+ studies. Y’All Means All is particularly notable for its wide range of subject matter coverage, as steeped in a “multitude of methodologies, from quantitative analysis, to oral history and autoethnography.” Interdisciplinary-minded environmental scholars and activists will have particular interest in novel contributions such as Rebecca-Eli Long’s chapter that proposes a “new alliance” of “crip/queer environmental engagement that expands the work of queer and environmental activists to critically consider the ways in which these movements can consider disability in conversations about harm and justice.” Such a framework, among other things, asks “while fighting against extractive capitalist forces that have caused great damage, can we engage with disability as more than just a byproduct of environmental harm?” As McNeill concludes, such crucial contributions “situate ourselves within an Appalachian history of resistance and envision an Appalachian queerness fueled by radical community-making, mutual aid, and solidarity movements for intersecting justices.”

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