Prof. Dr. Miriam Strube (Universität Paderborn): "'When you're small, you gotta fix what you can': Overconsumption and Ecojustice in Beast of the Southern Wild"

Tuesday, 09.07.2019, 6:15-7:45 p.m., U9/01.11

A bitter (and short-lived) gift from Hurricane Katrina was to refocus America's attention on the enduring legacy of racial segregation and poverty in the US. Early cries that "the storm didn't discriminate" were soon discredited by statistics showing that the storm's impacts weighed much more heavily upon racial minorities and the poor. The prize-winning 2012 feature film Beast of the Southern Wild, a magic-realist fable shot in reaction to Hurricane Katrina, is an attempt to turn to environmental racism, to overconsumption and to the existence of communities living literally on the margins and on the recycled objects thrown away by main­stream society.

In my analysis, I will argue that the film presents an alternative, if not an uncomplicated one, to the capitalist principles of production and mass consumption that lead to an anthropogenic ecocrisis. The film criticized what has been called institutionalized overconsumption, an overconsumption built into the very fabric of mainstream culture. And it dramatizes ecojustice according to which resistance against the destruction of the environment means resistance against the social and political marginalization of oppressed groups. This kind of environmental justice, therefore, does not only fight against environmental racism, but also directs attention to the social and environmental habits of anthropocentrism.