"Slow Violence" by Rob Nixon receives prominent American Book Award

September 26, 2012

Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor by Rob Nixon, UW-Madison professor of English and environmental studies, has been named a 2012 American Book Award winner.

UW-Madison professor of English and environmental studies Rob Nixon

Presented by the Before Columbus Foundation, the American Book Awards were created to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America's diverse literary community. The award winners range from well-known and established writers to under-recognized authors and first works. This year's recipients will be formally recognized at an Oct. 7 reception at the University of California at Berkeley.

In Slow Violence, Nixon explores the fundamental challenge of capturing the pervasive effects of slowly unfolding environmental crises. Climate change, thawing polar icecaps, the toxic drift of agricultural runoff and the ongoing chemical and radiological legacies of wars are just a few examples of what Nixon calls "slow violence." 

Throughout Slow Violence, Nixon tracks some of the creative ways that writers and filmmakers have risen to face the storytelling challenges posed by attritional environmental degradation. The use of a narrative vocabulary, striking visual imagery, powerful analogies or individual stories can all help give shape to forms of oblique, slow damage and help challenge media-reinforced assumptions about violence, according to Nixon.

Earlier this year, the International Studies Association chose Slow Violence as the winner of the Harold and Margaret Sprout Award for 2012. That prize goes to the best book in international environmental studies — a book that makes an "original contribution to theory and interdisciplinarity, shows rigor and coherence in research and writing, and offers accessibility and practical relevance." 

Slow Violence also won the 2011 Transdisciplinary Humanities Book Award, which goes to a book, published anywhere in the world, that "best exemplifies transdisciplinary, socially engaged humanities-based scholarship on a topic of social or cultural importance — past, present, or future."