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The Dystopian Imaginary, Climate Migration, and ‘Lifeboat-Nationalism’

Whittle, Matthew (2023) The Dystopian Imaginary, Climate Migration, and ‘Lifeboat-Nationalism’. In: Stan, Corina and Sussman, Charlotte, eds. The Palgrave Handbook of European Migration in Literature and Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, Switzerland, pp. 151-166. ISBN 978-3-031-30783-6. E-ISBN 978-3-031-30784-3. (doi:10.1007/978-3-031-30784-3) (KAR id:104087)


This chapter examines the investment of ecocritical scholarship in what has been called an environmental apocalypticism and its implications for debates about climate-induced migration. ‘Environmental apocalypticism’ names the transformative social and political possibilities that are thought to be inspired by dystopian narratives that imagine the world after the impact of the climate emergency. This chapter does not overturn such investments in a dystopian imaginary but instead argues that environmental apocalypticism is ‘Janus-faced’: it may inspire transnational cooperation, but it also frames the climate crisis as a ‘national security’ concern. This latter adoption of dystopian imagery is fuelling what I am calling ‘lifeboat-nationalism’, whereby a Malthusian concern with overpopulation and resource scarcity bolsters the militarised borders of wealthy countries. An analysis of two contemporary, European-set climate dystopias—John Lanchester’s The Wall (2019) and Maja Lunde’s The End of the Ocean (2017)—reveals that an investment in environmental apocalypticism must confront the ideological premises of lifeboat-nationalism. In doing so, dystopian visions can dramatise the culpability of wealthy, post-imperial nation-states and the fossil fuel industries that inaugurated the ecological conditions of climate-induced migration.

Item Type: Book section
DOI/Identification number: 10.1007/978-3-031-30784-3
Uncontrolled keywords: Dystopian literature, climate migration, hostile environment, nationalism, climate change
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN80 Criticism
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Matt Whittle
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2023 12:10 UTC
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2024 08:54 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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