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Afterword: Anthropology, Climate Change and Social-Ecological Transformations in the Anthropocene

Authors:
Sociologus 68 (2018) 1
Sociologus, Volume 68, Issue 1, p. 85 94
Duncker & Humblot, Berlin
* Depar tment of Social and Cu ltural Anthropolog y, Unive rsität zu Köln, Albe r-
tus-Magnus-Platz, D-50923 Köln, Germany, email: michael.bollig@uni-koeln.de
Afterword: Anthropology, Climate Change
and Social-Ecological Transformations
in the Anthropocene
By Michael Bollig*
Keywords: climate change, capitalist economy, materiality, future making, anth-
ropocene
Since about two decades anthropology has dealt with global climate
change. Most anthropological contributions have focused on local per-
ceptions of climate change, adaptations to climatic perturbations as
well as on translations of knowledge of climate change and appropriate
measures of adaptation across spatial and organisational scales. In re-
cent years, the latter focus has become more prominent and is increas-
ingly gaining theoretical ground and empirical applications. Often such
contributions first looked at conceptualisations of climate change and
concepts of mitigation and adaptation at the global level, researched
how they were formed in international conferences, expert panels and
organisations, analysed how they became national policies and finally
followed the translation chain to diverse localities in the Global South,
such as the Pacific and East Africa, or to Siberia and also Europe (Rudi-
ak-Gould 2011, Weisser et al. 2014, de Wit 2017, Crate 2011, Krauss
2007, Krauss and von Storch 2012). Also this Special Issue contributes
to this direction of thought. Characteristically, contributions have been
strong in giving empirical evidence for such chains of translation. They
have been excellent applications of multi-sited research set ups and
they have given an intriguing glance into an emerging regime of global
environmental governance. In this way they have been convincing ex-
amples of an ‘ethnography of global connection’ that Tsing (2004) pro-
mulgated programmatically more than a decade ago and have been val-
uable contributions to interdisciplinary theorizing on global climate
change and social-ecological transformations.
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But where do we go from here? Where will social science research on
global climate change and its connection to social-ecological, political,
cultural and economic dynamics place its emphasis in the next decade,
and what will be the particular contribution of anthropology? I will
shortly address some underdeveloped fields of anthropological engage-
ment with the climate change research agenda and forward three hy-
potheses.
1. Anthropology Needs to Refocus its Attention
on the Intricate Relation Between Global Climate Change
and the Dynamics of the Capitalist Economy
Until now, anthropology has offered little to document and analyse
the entanglements of capitalist economies and global climate change.
We have successfully politicized, and perhaps also anthropologised, an
originally entirely natural-sciences dominated discourse, but we have
lost the entanglements of economy and climate change out of sight. This
work has been left to economists and sociologists who in the sequel of
the highly influential Stern Report (2006) have habitually adopted a
global format but have had little to say about changing regional eco-
nomic settings let alone in the Global South. Anthropology has a par-
ticular strength for a change in perspective: how does climate change
alter local economic processes and economic strategizing and what do
we learn from dense ethnographic accounts for wider regions of the
globe? Conventionally, climate change has been considered as a force
damaging vulnerable rural and urban populations. Their local econo-
mies are being damaged through climate change: their agricultural pro-
duction diminishes, their fishing grounds decrease and droughts eat
away their livestock herds. While anthropologists have accumulated
knowledge on local perceptions and the negative effects of climate
change on livelihood security, the documentation of growing vulnera-
bility in material terms has largely been left to the discipline of geogra-
phy. Why is this so? Anthropologists have been adamant to point to the
multidimensional causation of vulnerabilities. While other sciences
have been rash to attribute migration (Reuveny 2007), violent conflict
(Parenti 2011) and impoverishment (Barnett and Adger 2007) to the sin-
gle factor climate change, anthropology has hinted at uncertainties and
multi-causality. This has made anthropological contributions more
complex but also more difficult to digest. However, despite the uncer-
tainties pertaining to causality complexity should not hinder anthro-
pologists to target pertinent global issues: Does climate change spur
de-agrarisation, does it contribute to rural-urban migration and to
pauperization e. g. in areas prone to drought? And what is the exact role
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of climatic perturbations in violent conflict? I see it as a distinct strength
of anthropology to conceptualize social-ecological transformations as
induced by a multitude of interconnected drivers for which mutual
feed-back mechanisms can often be determined qualitatively but not
quantitatively. Anthropologists will not easily fall prey to any form of
determinism; yet, their credo for multi-causality, uncertainties and am-
biguousness should not become an excuse for not naming pertinent
drivers of pauperization, violent conflict and political turmoil.
While the sciences have focussed on the losers of climate change, con-
tributions in this volume also show that there are winners of (the poli-
tics of) climate change. Chakrabarty argues that climate change ‘re-
fracted through global capital, will no doubt accentuate the logic of
inequality’ (Chakrabarty 2009, 220). Who are the winners then? Cer-
tainly the brokers translating the global climate change cum adapta-
tion paradigm to other audiences gain from mastering the narrative.
Adaptation to climate change is great business nowadays and many
proposed adaptation mechanisms are based on capitalist market prin-
ciples and are firmly embedded in neo-liberal thinking about markets
as solutions for societal problems. The REDD+ convention has created
a new market on which carbon off-sets are traded and has successfully
commoditized carbon stored in forests. Large Western companies are
trading carbon units with governments in the Global South (Cabello
and Gilbertson 2012). Land grabs and ensuing large scale agro-indus-
trial transformation may contribute to an adaptation to climate change
but they also cement dependence and exploitative relations. There is
arguably a risk that the adaptation-to-climate-change governance pro-
vides for neo-colonial relations between developed countries and the
Global South. While the main gains may be with western enterprises,
also local gains are not negligible. It is highly likely that such mar-
ket-based mechanisms to foster adaptation accelerate local wealth dis-
crepancies. At the local level, elites involve themselves in large scale
reforestation projects meant to contribute to the overall CO2 balance.
They too profit from these capitalist trading schemes and are able to
foster their influential position. Weisser et al. (2014) argue that soon
there will be more money transferred to adaptation-to-climate-change
projects than to ordinary development aid, and much of that funding
directly feeds into emergent markets of green economies. Capitalist
markets and adaptation strategies fostered by global environmental
governance are strongly linked, and in many cases, adaptation to cli-
mate change programmes pave the way for an expansion of capitalist
market mechanisms into marginal areas of the Global South, savannah
landscapes, rain-forests and wetlands which until recently were pe-
ripheral to global capitalist production. Anthropologists will have to
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theorize this linkage and have to do sound ethnography of the so-
cial-ecological processes involved.
2. An Emphasis on Narratives, Concepts
and Epistemology has De-Materialized Anthropological Research
on Climate Change. A Re-Coupling of Global Climate Change
and Material Dynamics is Necessary
The dominant anthropological narrative on climate change had little
to say on the material reverberations of climate change. These material
dynamics are comprehensive: changing composition of species, invad-
ing species, changing abundance of resources etc. Apparently anthro-
pologists were plagued by a distaste for all too material dynamics (let
ecologists work on them!). Many anthropological accounts of climate
change in local settings start their tale with ascertaining that local
changes e. g. of settlement patterns, land use and demography are cer-
tainly not (only) determined by climate change. Of course, a certain
scepticism of climate over-determination is well taken. It has been a
distinct strength of anthropological narratives to highlight uncertain-
ties, but there is the risk to throw out the baby with the bath tub and to
make political ecology a purely discourse focussed exercise leaving eco-
logical dynamics aside. Climate change certainly does have very mate-
rial reverberations which in combination then with other factors con-
tribute to economic transformations and ecological shifts. While the
acknowledgement of the materiality of climate change necessitates a
closer collaboration of anthropologists and natural scientists (meteo-
rologists but certainly also biologists), anthropology (or perhaps the so-
cial sciences at large) will also have to develop its own approach to the
material aspects of climate change. A recent brand of neo-materialism
(LeCain 2015, 2016, Adeny 2014) but also multi-species approaches
(e. g. Hartigan 2014) go exactly into this direction.
Chakrabarty has recently put forward four hypotheses linking global
climate change with global development. I will belabour two of them
here. Chakrabarty advances his argument from the observation that de-
bates on climate change (in the natural sciences) and on the societal and
cultural effects of globalization (in the social sciences) entered public
and scientific debates together in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Chakrabarty diagnoses that within the context of such deliberations,
humans were considered as biological and geological agents. This im-
plied that humans were ‘attributed … a force at the same scale as that
released at other times when there has been mass extinction of species’
(Chakrabarty 2009, 207). This observation leads him to the bold hy-
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pothesis that the advent of human-induced climate change necessitates
the end of the conventional dichotomy between human culture and na-
ture, and that distinctions between natural history and human history
have become invalid. Humans unfold a force that is so pressing that
they act as a geological force altering their environment in a compre-
hensive (though not always intentional) way. In line with Crutzen and
others (2002), this first consideration leads Chakrabarty to his second
hypothesis: human impact mediated through global climate change
heralds a new epoch: the Anthropocene. Crutzen (2002) forwarded the
idea that the Anthropocene’s beginning can be dated back to the late
18th century. The invention of the steam engine soon led to profound
atmospheric changes, today detectable in air trapped in polar ice indi-
cating the advent of a growing global concentration of carbon dioxide
and methane. The consequences of anthropogenic transformations are
only felt nowadays and they progressively shape living options of the
global population.
I see two anthropological subfields directly concerned with what is at
stake here: multi-species anthropology and the anthropology of infra-
structure. Multi-species ethnography developed out of Science and
Technology Studies (STS) in the first decade of the 21st century (Kirk-
sey and Helmreich 2010). In an attempt to grasp the intersection of
dynamic multi-species assemblages in which humans are evidently
embedded, key topics were a keen concern for non-human sociality, in-
teraction between humans and other species and the intersection of
lived-realities and human-nonhuman entanglements. As a consequence
of global climate change, species compositions do change profoundly
(Hellmann et al. 2008). For instance, large game change migration be-
haviour and microbes react to changing levels of moisture and different
regimes of precipitation. Multi-species ethnography seems to be well-
positioned to capture this dynamic web of living beings from an an-
thropo-centered perspective without falling prey to an anthropo-cen-
tric over-determinism that the concept Anthropocene certainly con-
veys. This implies a historisation of such assemblages and their politi-
cisation. Haraway (2015) argues for such a synthesis linking the con-
cepts Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene and Chthulucene1.
With Anna Tsing, Haraway (2015, 159) argues that the loss of refugia
1 Haraway (2015, 260) uses the concept Chtulucene to label a more optimis-
tic vision of possible futures in the times of climate change: ‘Maybe, but only
maybe, and only with intense commitment and collaborative work and play with
other terrans, flourishing for rich multispecies assemblages that include peo-
ple will be possible. I am calling all this the Chthulucene – past, present, and to
come. … ‘My’ Chthulucene, … entangles myriad temporalities and spatialities
and myriad intra-active entities-in-assemblages – including the more-than-hu-
man, other-than-human, inhuman, and human-as-humus.
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‘from which diverse species assemblages with or without people can be
reconstituted after major events’ is the tipping point between Holocene
and Anthropocene and that it is perhaps more useful to conceptualize
the Anthropocene as a boundary event instead of a new epoch. For her
it is adamant ‘to make possible partial and robust biological-cultur-
al-political-technological recuperation and re-composition, which
must include mourning irreversible losses’ (ibid. 160). Anthropology
must find its ways to engage in critical commentaries on this transition
and it is obvious that anthropology needs to be sensitive to more-than-hu-
man-assemblages to do so.
Also the anthropology of infrastructures has been a new kid on the
block in the first decade of the 21st century. Larkin (2013) is certainly
right when claiming that anthropologists shied away from looking at
roads, bridges, railways, day-to-day infrastructure we have come to
live by for long. Nowadays, however, anthropologists working in rural
areas of the Global South are progressively studying the consequences
of electrification (i. e. the expansion of an infrastructure), of large-scale
hydrological installations and the expansion of road networks. Adapta-
tion to climate change entails the setting up of new infrastructures:
dykes on the shores of the pacific islands are a pertinent example, the
artificial reorganisation of water-courses and the piping of water over
large distances in southern Africa as well as extensive reforested areas
in East Africa more complex issues. Water-harvesting infrastructures
are essential in the strategies of development projects seeking to pro-
vide climate-change resilience in the drylands of Africa (Bollig 2014).
Such adaptation-to-climate-change induced infrastructures will change
the course of social-ecological dynamics. I do not argue here, that cli-
mate change brings about these changes, but that global environmental
governance fostering large-scale adaptation-to-climate change projects
all over the globe result in salient infrastructures and landscape change
leading the way into the future. Ian Hodder has recently put forward
the concepts entanglement and entrapment in his analysis of interac-
tions between humans and the non-human world. These are helpful to
capture the intricate relation between human culture and nature. He
defines entanglement as the dialectic of dependence and dependency
between humans and things (Hodder 2014, 20). The term ‘entanglement’
seeks to capture the ways in which humans and things entrap each other.
Therefore, Hodder argues, it may be justified to not only speak of en-
tanglements (entities affecting each other) but of entrapments (entities
enforcing a path-dependence on each other). The newly built infra-
structures connected to adaption-to-climate change projects will cer-
tainly entrap human development, create new path dependencies and
put socio-economic change on specific tracks.
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3. Addressing Climate Change
is Nowadays a Key Strategy of Planetary Future Making.
An Anthropology of Climate Change has to Theorize Futures
and the Way we Conceptualise and Produce Them
When looking at the many charts, graphs and maps addressing cli-
mate change in various sub-regions of the world, we quickly come to
realize that most graphical indices relate to the future. They are speak-
ing about 2035, 2050, 2080 and often about 2100 and rest on different
technologies and politics of prognosis. It is certainly of interest how
such technologies of prognosis permeate decision making by highlight-
ing certain futures as more plausible than others (best case versus worst
case scenarios). For instance, projections of the consequences of global
climate change for northern Namibia predict that by 2080 agriculture
will not be possible any longer in north-western and north-central Na-
mibia. This, however, does certainly not take into account that irriga-
tion could change the picture entirely. Recently, geologists located a
profound sub-terraenean lake in northern Namibia, and given appro-
priate technological advances, large regions of the north could poten-
tially be irrigated. Genetically modified species could also withstand
prolonged dry periods. Hence, the future is not at all as secure as such
maps are pretending to show. Climate change predictions for the region
are taken, however, to reason for non-agricultural resource manage-
ment strategies such as wildlife conservation or to argue for changes in
farming techniques (i. e. the introduction of so-called conservation ag-
riculture). They just show the reaction of a social-ecological system to
one impacting factor, namely changing regimes of precipitation. Indeed,
elevating one single variable out of a complex matrix of interdependen-
cies is a form of environmental determinism that permeates much plan-
ning at the moment (Hulme 2011) and anthropology is well positioned
to critically reflect upon such ways of future-making.
More complex realities are hard to show in maps and graphs. While
models habitually belabour the more distant future and work on decad-
al scales, actors are more often concerned with developments of the
next few years. They are dealing with the near future and are concerned
with increasing frequency of extreme climate events (droughts, inunda-
tions, cyclones). Adaptation-to-climate-change projects induce rural
communities to organize in community based organisations modelled
after global blueprints for sustainable common property resource man-
agement à la Ostrom (Bollig and Menestrey-Schwieger 2014). In many
parts of Africa, community based wildlife conservation is such a future
orientated project and it is seen as a feasible strategy to adapt to cli-
mate change. These new forms of conservation are emphatically em-
Michael Bollig
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bedded in global discourses on future-making: they are meant to sus-
tain biodiversity, provide significant ‘carbon sinks’ and promote ‘green’
development in times of global climate change. They are also thought to
become the hubs for non-consumptive modes of land-use via tourism
and sustainable natural resource harvest, presenting new options for
the futures of rural populations. Sometimes these futures are depicted
in narratives of future probabilities: they are depicted in scenarios or
modelled with other fore-casting methodologies. More often they are
narrativised as futures of possibilities in affording landscapes: this be-
comes particularly clear when conservation efforts entail visions of
‘healed landscapes’, eschatological landscapes (‘eden’, ‘paradise’), pri-
meval landscapes, global heritage, resilient social-ecological systems
and models of successful commodification of natural resources. Does
such kind of land use transformation via wildlife conservation offer a
way of landscape redemption in times of global climate change? In oth-
er words: will an arid Eden outlive the perturbations of global climate
change? An anthropology of climate change will by necessity entail an
ethnography of future-making addressing futures of probabilities and
futures of possibilities (Appadurai 2013), i. e. consider human strategiz-
ing, hoping and acting in an area of conflict between technologies of
prognosis-making and personal aspirations for a better and perhaps
less vulnerable future.
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... As formas pelas quais o cuidado constitui -e organiza -as relações entre as pessoas e o ambiente natural configura uma perspectiva de pesquisa antropológica que, essencialmente, retorna aos trabalhos iniciais da disciplina sobre o animismo e o totemismo. As pesquisas voltadas para a íntima interdependência social, espiritual e material entre pessoas, animais, entidades espirituais e paisagens utilizam a noção de cuidado para indicar o entrelaçamento de vidas que não podem ser resolvidas individualmente (Kirksey & Helmreich 2010;Orr, Lansing & Dove 2015;Bollig 2018;Bird-David 1999;Fijn 2011;Kohn 2013, Münster 2017. Em geral, enquanto prática que vai além dos limites da humanidade e foca no bem-estar sustentável de todas as formas de existência, o cuidado é visto como aquilo que constitui a essência da busca coletiva por uma vida melhor e mais saudável no planeta (Puig de la Bellacasa 2011). ...
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Resumo Importar-se com os outros e cuidar dos outros - sejam outras pessoas, coletividades, plantas, animais ou o clima - é um ato cotidiano e recorrente. Em algum momento da vida, quase todos os seres humanos precisam ser cuidados, são cuidados e, por fim, cuidam. Na antropologia, a noção crítica de cuidado constitui uma ferramenta analítica para considerar seriamente as contingências da vida e para compreender os modos como as pessoas atribuem sentido a diferentes tipos de atos, atitudes e valores. Este artigo argumenta que a dimensão normativa do conceito é parte de um binarismo cultural que hierarquiza o mundo de acordo com esferas da existência às quais são atribuídos valores distintos. Concentrando-se nesta normatividade como algo intrínseco à noção, o artigo estabelece uma distinção entre três campos empíricos complementares: o cuidado como reprodução social (globalizada), o cuidado como assimetria institucionalizada, e o cuidado para além do excepcionalismo humano. Fica claro que o cuidado oscila entre duas perspectivas distintas, produzindo uma tensão específica: por um lado, o conceito de cuidado apresenta uma dimensão protetora e conservadora ligada ao passado, por outro, incorpora uma dimensão transformativa por meio de suas noções de desenvolvimento, progresso e aprimoramento. Para ir além de nossa própria concepção (potencial ou inevitavelmente) acadêmica, eurocêntrica ou humanocêntrica da noção de cuidado, este ensaio sugere levar “o cuidado além do reparo”: podemos fazê-lo, em primeiro lugar, indagando qual é o papel da pesquisa nesta ética da diferenciação e, em seguida, identificando perspectivas e posicionalidades as quais, à primeira vista, parecem indistintas ou desarticuladas e, por isso, desafiam categorias já familiares de avaliação e distinção. Encarado desta maneira, o cuidado além do reparo nos chama a atenção para o fazer e o desfazer da existência humana.
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To care about and for others-that is other people, collectivities, plants, animals, or the climate-is a mundane and ubiquitous act. At some point in life, almost every human being needs to be cared for, encounters care, and eventually provides care. In anthropology, the critical notion of care provides an analytic tool for seriously considering life's contingencies and for understanding the ways that people ascribe meaning to different kind of acts, attitudes, and values. This chapter argues that the concept's normative dimension forms part of a cultural binarism that hierarchizes the world according to differently valued spheres of existence. Concentrating on this normativity as inherent to the notion, the chapter distinguishes three complementary empirical fields: care as (globalized) social reproduction, care as institutionalized asymmetry, and care beyond human exceptionalism. It becomes clear that care oscillates between two different perspectives, producing a particular tension. On the one hand, the care concept features a protective and conservative dimension that is congruent with the past. On the other hand, the concept incorporates a transformational dimension through its notions of development, progress, and improvement. To move beyond our own (potentially or inevitably) academic, Eurocentric, or human-centric understanding of the notion, this essay suggests moving "care beyond repair." We can do so, first, by asking what role research plays in this differentiating ethics and, second, by identifying perspectives and positionalities that, at first glance, appear indistinct or inarticulate and hence do not confirm already-familiar categories of evaluation and distinction. Seen this way, care beyond repair draws attention to the making and unmaking of human existence.
... Increasing demand of livestock products due to rising population in the South Asian region more specifically in Pakistan while inadequate livestock production due to squeezing grazing rangelands and climatic shocks caused market supply shortfall subsequently generated marketing inflationary pressure (Ayantunde et al., 2011;Abid et al., 2019;Ahmad et al., 2020). Demographic pressure on rangelands, weakening traditional institutions and chronic poverty causing building competition among pastoral communities regarding natural capital, resulting in violent clashes and conflicts (Ayantunde et al., 2020;Bollig, 2018;Theisen, 2017). All such issues are causing increasing pastoral livelihood insecurity and hostile pastoral sustainability (Ibrahim et al., 2019). ...
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Pastoralism is mostly related to specific ethnic group or group of people whose livelihoods generally depend on production of livestock in the rangelands. Pastoralists’ livelihood regarding livestock is hastily becoming indefensible due to mounting pressure of population growth on rangelands and desertification of vast rangeland, the reason for severe climate change. This study attempted to investigate the impact of violent conflicts and environmental hazards on sustainability of pastoral in Punjab, Pakistan. Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur districts of southern Punjab due to significant contribution in livestock and grazing rangeland locations were purposively selected for this study. This research work used the data of 840 pastoralists’ and employed instrumental variable regression model for empirical estimation of the study. Estimates of the study indicated livestock holding negatively influenced from violent conflicts and environmental hazards as this effect can initiate without any exception of livestock holding size. Finding also highlighted pastoralists significant welfare indicators such as income and expenses were negatively influenced due to livestock losses. Pastoralist’s livelihood sustainability is feasible by overcoming such negative impacts of violent conflicts and environmental hazards. There is need to sure pastoralists’ community sustainability by priority focusing on environment sustainable agenda not only internationally but also on national and regional levels. More particularly, implementation proper policy measures regarding climate change coping strategies, controlling violent conflicts, land management and managing programs for reducing poverty more specifically for pastoralist’s rangeland households is needed.
... Given its use as a policy instrument by global organisations such as the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, adaptation has also been connected to development regimes and thus the legitimation of intervention. As Bollig (2018) shows, such adaptation-based interventions rely on capitalist market principles and are deeply embedded in neoliberal thinking and ideology. Within this logic, localised knowledge becomes just another commodity on the neoliberal "marketplace of ideas" (Nik-Khah 2017). ...
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Paper short abstract: Observing a growing interest in knowledge and its production in anthropological studies on climate change, resilience, and local adaptation, this paper critically challenges such an epistemological understanding of knowledge as place-based, isolated, static and held by an imagined, homogenised other. Paper long abstract: This paper critically reviews current anthropological debates on knowledge production and climate change. It discusses power inequalities and the positioning of the anthropologist in ongoing research projects that are located in reception and observation studies, vulnerability assessments, and others. We observe that the way in which these projects engage with crucial questions in the emerging field of the anthropology of climate change, is a return to the use of arguments and methods brought up by early ethnoecological approaches. Just like its predecessor such ethno-climatological analysis carries the risk of reproducing dangerous ideas of homogenous, solitary groups, and unreflected hierarchies between local/place-based knowledge and globalised scientific knowledge. We aim to demonstrate the epistemological assumptions that are shaping the process of the anthropological inquiry about knowledge. Furthermore, we argue that research is influenced by utilitarian claims made in climate change adaptation projects and seldom reflects on the control and accessibility over its research outcomes and their uses. In response to this criticism, we argue for an anthropology transcending such binary conceptions of difference that needs to consider knowledge production as a process shaped by historical and current power structures. This requires the radical decolonisation of anthropology, its methods and approaches, the exploring of alternative methodologies and the recognition of dynamic connections and thinking beyond the boundaries of and imposed by western science. Finally, the realistic reflection of the systematic structures in which our discipline and we as researchers are entangled must be visualised, not only theoretically, but also in research practice.
... Given its use as a policy instrument by global organisations such as the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, adaptation has also been connected to development regimes and thus the legitimation of intervention. As Bollig (2018) shows, such adaptation-based interventions rely on capitalist market principles and are deeply embedded in neoliberal thinking and ideology. Within this logic, localised knowledge becomes just another commodity on the neoliberal "marketplace of ideas" (Nik-Khah 2017). ...
Conference Paper
Paper short abstract: Observing a growing interest in knowledge and its production in anthropological studies on climate change, resilience, and local adaptation, this paper critically challenges such an epistemological understanding of knowledge as place-based, isolated, static and held by an imagined, homogenised other. Paper long abstract: This paper critically reviews current anthropological debates on knowledge production and climate change. It discusses power inequalities and the positioning of the anthropologist in ongoing research projects that are located in reception and observation studies, vulnerability assessments, and others. We observe that the way in which these projects engage with crucial questions in the emerging field of the anthropology of climate change, is a return to the use of arguments and methods brought up by early ethnoecological approaches. Just like its predecessor such ethno-climatological analysis carries the risk of reproducing dangerous ideas of homogenous, solitary groups, and unreflected hierarchies between local/place-based knowledge and globalised scientific knowledge. We aim to demonstrate the epistemological assumptions that are shaping the process of the anthropological inquiry about knowledge. Furthermore, we argue that research is influenced by utilitarian claims made in climate change adaptation projects and seldom reflects on the control and accessibility over its research outcomes and their uses. In response to this criticism, we argue for an anthropology transcending such binary conceptions of difference that needs to consider knowledge production as a process shaped by historical and current power structures. This requires the radical decolonisation of anthropology, its methods and approaches, the exploring of alternative methodologies and the recognition of dynamic connections and thinking beyond the boundaries of and imposed by western science. Finally, the realistic reflection of the systematic structures in which our discipline and we as researchers are entangled must be visualised, not only theoretically, but also in research practice.
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