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SEI News: Time and Intergenerational Decolonisation with Christine Winter

SEI researcher Dr Christine Winter has published a new paper ‘Does time colonise intergenerational environmental justice theory?’ in the journal of Environmental Politics.

Wanaka New Zealand by Aaron Sebastian via Unsplash.

Environmental justice is a process of recognising and redistributing resources, development and legislation to ensure fair and equal access for all people. IEJ, intergenerational environmental justice, takes this concept and extrapolates it beyond the present by considering the histories and implications of these issues for past and future people.

However, as Christine’s paper notes, very little analysis of IEJ methods themselves have been engaged with, and the foundational concept of time itself as linear within the IEJ framework has been taken for granted.

Many cultures worldwide do not subscribe to the chronology implicit in IEJ and Western philosophy; instead, time may be ‘spirally bound’, cyclical in nature, and humans and non-humans are far more deeply entangled. Thus, notions of environmental justice that fail to engage with these non-linear ontologies of time fall short of truly encompassing the concept of ‘justice’ as anything more than a moral obligation, rather than something inherent to existence.

In this way, the implication of linear time itself imposes a colonial constraint on many non-Western cultures and philosophies, and so Christine’s work, drawing on Māori ontologies of time, offers a critique of IEJ and begins the decolonisation of these practices.

Christine’s article can be accessed here.


Christine Winter is a lecturer in the Department of Government & International Relations at the University of Sydney. Her research focuses at the intersection of intergenerational, indigenous and environmental justice. Drawing on her Anglo-Celtic-Māori cultural heritage she is interested in decolonising political theory by identifying key epistemological and ontological assumptions in theory that are incompatible with indigenous philosophies. In doing so she has two aims: to make justice theory just for Indigenous peoples of the settler states; and to expand the boundaries of theories of intergenerational justice to protect the environment for future generations of Indigenous Peoples and their settler compatriots.