Hannah Arendt and the Politics of Place: Exile, History, and the Cliamte Crisis

Lucy Benjamin

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

512 Downloads (Pure)


In this thesis I argue for a renewed consideration of the climate crisis. In order to do this, I develop the formulation ‘earth-world-history,’ which I understand to be the locus of this crisis. Emerging from a clarification of Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt writings on the temporality of place and the ‘placedness’ of temporality – understood principally in terms of events occurring in history – earthworld- history serves as my entry into the environmental thinking of both scholars. Further clarifying
the ontological implications of earth-world-history, I offer a reading of Arendt’s twofold political conditions, natality and plurality, as conditioned by this constellation. By radically extending Arendt’s political vocabulary in this way, in part by exposing the ‘earthliness’ of natality and plurality, I uncover the latent concern for an ‘earthly politics’ in her writing. Turning to another of Arendt’s interlocutors, Walter Benjamin, I ‘operationalise’ this claim via a critical rereading of the climate crisis’s history. Recasting Benjamin’s historically oppressed as those ‘exiled’ by history, a formulation that captures the ‘placedness’ of temporality, I argue for the recognition of an exilic force which exists not only in relation to the history of the climate crisis but increasingly encroaches into the future. Finding a politics to overcome this exilic future I return to the notion of natality, recalling its emergence from earth-world-history as pivotal to its capacity to redeem a new future in spite of a violent past.

This thesis is, to the best of my knowledge, the first to position Arendt as an environmental scholar. And yet, it is not only Arendt or the dialogue she sustains with Heidegger and Benjamin that informs my thinking. Reflecting the plurality implicated by the climate crisis, I incorporate a plurality of voices to unpack, clarify and ultimately illuminate this singular historical phenomenon.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Sands, Danielle, Supervisor
Award date1 Oct 2021
Publication statusUnpublished - 2021


  • Hannah Arendt
  • Exile
  • Climate change
  • Martin Heidegger
  • Anthropocene

Cite this