Military as an Institution and Militarization as a Process: Theorizing the U.S. Military and Environmental Justice


State reactions to Black Lives Matter demonstrations include heavily militarized domestic police responses and the deployment of the National Guard. These events place emphasis on understanding the U.S. military as an institution and militarization as a process; as well as their corresponding environmental justice (EJ) consequences. In this study, we integrate critical race theory, decolonial thought, carceral geography, and military and environmental sociology to theorize the military and militarization as potentially important and overlooked sources of environmental injustice that ought to concern scholars and activists. We use an interdisciplinary framework to highlight: the historical role of the military in the creation and maintenance of racialized and colonized difference, how the U.S. militarization is connected to localized and national overpolicing and environmental harm, and how the environmental risks of warfare may be transferred from combat zones to civilian EJ communities and sites, both domestically and abroad. We stress that the production of colonized and racialized space—and the criminalization of Black, Indigenous, and other bodies of color—happens within the context of militarization as a process and the U.S. military as an institution so future critical analysis should look to these levels. Our goal is to urge scholars and activists to recognize the military as a potentially significant contributor to environmental injustice and outline avenues for future study.

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Last updated on 01/05/2022