Weaponized Chagos Archipelago: strategic urbanization and environment fortress as legal ammunition against human rights

Weaponized Chagos Archipelago: strategic urbanization and environment fortress as legal ammunition against human rights

Submission ID:

102

Building upon Tim Ingold’s conceptualization of environmental outlooks ranging from the “globe” to the “sphere,” this paper demonstrates how the privileged Western global ontology and technology can lead to the disempowerment of local people—confined both physically and ontologically within their “little communities”—from the management of their immediate “sphere” of environments. It brings awareness to that environmentalism, when misconstrued in practice, becomes means of fortification and exclusion, furthering economic exploitation and political marginalization. This paper examines the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean—in particular, its largest island Diego Garcia that is strategically urbanized by the U.S. military—which presents a coupling of military occupation with environment fortress that perpetuates indigenous injustices.

Following the 1966 so-called “exchange of notes”—essentially a treaty that granted U.S. military use of Diego Garcia for fifty years, Chagos Archipelago was “sanitized” between 1970 and 1973 with 1500 Chagossians expelled. In 2010, Chagos Marine Protected Area was established, following the shibboleth that, “bigger is better” and “no-take is the best.” Acting as legal ammunition against Chagossians’ claims for the right of return and abode, Chagos MPA sustains the romanticization of a pristine ecology that benefits few—according to challenges from the science community on its efficacy and necessity—but conceals coral mining, unmonitored fishing and other military activities.

Through a comparison of Diego Garcia to the Subic Bay, Vieques and Okinawa where similar blue- or green-washing narratives and technologies were constructed to legitimize military occupation, this paper suggests a reading of environment conservation in local “spheres” within the network of a global-scale engineering project while revealing its social and political implications when perverted by de-territorialized powers.

Corresponding Author

Chen Chu

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Author #1:

Chen Chu

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Author #2:

Author #3:

Author #4:

Preferred Track

4. Environment Impact Awareness in Urban Developments

Second Preferred Track

7. Urban competitiveness and social challenges

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DINÂMIA'CET-Iscte

Centre for Socioeconomic and Territorial Studies

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