Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 August 2021
Rights discourse is marked by ambivalence – the enunciation of rights alongside the attendant exclusions and violations of said rights. In the eighteenth century, for instance, the language of rights was used to justify the French and American revolutions even as women and the enslaved were excluded from the category of rights bearers. The human-based conception of rights also excluded the environment. This chapter proposes that extension of rights to both humans and nonhumans is at the core of the environmental humanities (EH). EH discourse of rights attends to the marginalization of communities disproportionately affected by the distribution of ecological risks and nonhuman ecologies threatened by anthropogenic activities such as resource extraction and energy use. Enunciations of rights in EH demonstrate a commitment to not only a select group of humans but to all humans as well as to the rights of nonhumans. However, EH discourse of rights is not without tensions, including the competing claims to rights among humans and between the interests of human and other-than-human worlds. The chapter concludes with an exploration of these tensions in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide.