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Environmental activism, environmental politics, and representation: the framing of the british environmental activist movement

By Maxine Newlands


This thesis explores the relationship between environmental activism, environmental politics and the mainstream media. In exploring the power relations between government, activists and the media, this work draws on Foucauldian theories of governmentality, power and space (heterotopia). The central hypothesis is that environmental politics has witnessed a shift in power away from activism and towards environmental governance and free-market economics, nestled in a media discourse that has depoliticised many environmental activist movements. Foucault’s theories on power, biopower and governmentality are combined with a critical discourse analysis (CDA) of newspaper reports and original empirical research derived from a focus group with environmental activists. The empirical data and analysis provides original knowledge on relations between environmental activists and journalists. The premise that economics has become the dominant solution to the detriment of environmental activism movements is argued through a historical analysis of advanced liberal governments’ role in creating new green markets and instruments (‘green governmentality’ in Luke’s terms). The shift towards green governmentality has been accompanied by an increased application of state measures, from legislation and surveillance, to conflating environmental activism with terrorism, and the neologism of eco-terrorism. Journalists reaffirm such governance, and the critical discourse analysis charts the shift from positive to negative reporting in the mainstream media. However, activists also contest such power relations through social and new media, alongside traditional repertoires of protest within the space of activism, to challenge such advanced liberal discourse, and bypass traditional media practices.\ud As neoliberalism has increasingly become the main position in environmental politics, it places activism into a discourse of deviance. The activists’ movement counters this measure through new media, liminoid practices and repertoires of protest

Year: 2013
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