Living with Uncertainty: Science, Environments and the Everyday I

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Development Geographies Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Balcony M, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Organizers: Nari Senanayake, Brian King
Chairs: Brian King


The problem of uncertainty is endemic to many contemporary social and environmental problems, from neoliberal transformations, to environmental illnesses, food (in)security, conflict, and global climate change. According to James Brown and Sarah Damery (2009, 90) this uncertainty "poses philosophical challenges regarding the nature, origins, and value of knowledge, ethical challenges regarding acceptable levels of risk, and political challenges concerning how to act and who has the mandate to decide." This paper session explores how existing, largely quantitative, approaches to uncertainty might be enriched through studies which investigate the 'productive potential,' and political implications of qualitative and ethnographic engagements with the limits of knowledge (for example, see: Auyero and Swistun 2009; Brown, Morello-Frosch, and Zavestoski 2011; Samimian-Darash and Rabinow 2015; Cooper and Pratten 2015). It includes a diverse set of papers that document experiences of insecurity, indeterminacy, obscurity, confusion, and misperception to advance theory, qualitative methods, and practice in geographical scholarship. This session also brings together papers that engage with frameworks from cognate fields such as environmental sociology, medical anthropology, STS, and feminist science studies to investigate how more explicit theorizations of uncertainty and risk might enrich existing geographic approaches. Specifically, contributors will explore the role of uncertainty in mediating human-environment interactions and its effects on key areas of geographic interest such as livelihoods, places, power, subjectivities, health, and landscapes. More broadly, we hope to explore how the discipline might contribute to larger academic and policy debates about the philosophical, ethical, and political challenges/opportunities created by uncertainty.

Works Cited

Auyero, Javier, and Débora Alejandra Swistun. 2009. Flammable: Environmental Suffering in an Argentine Shantytown. Oxford University Press.

Brown, James, and Sarah Damery. 2009. "Uncertainty and Risk." In A Companion to Environmental Geography, edited by Noel Castree, David Demeritt, Diana Liverman, and Bruce Rhoads, 81–94. John Wiley & Sons.

Brown, Phil, Rachel Morello-Frosch, and Stephen Zavestoski. 2011. Contested Illnesses: Citizens, Science, and Health Social Movements. University of California Press.

Cooper, Elizabeth, and David Pratten. 2015. "Ethnographies of Uncertainty in Africa: An Introduction." In Ethnographies of Uncertainty in Africa, 1–16. Springer.

Samimian-Darash, Limor, and Paul Rabinow. 2015. Modes of Uncertainty: Anthropological Cases. University of Chicago Press


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Introduction Nari Senanayake Pennsylvania State University 5 8:00 AM
Presenter Jeff Vance Martin*, University of California - Berkeley, Intentional illegibility in western range management: (Weapons of) the weak state 20 8:05 AM
Presenter Nari Senanayake*, Pennsylvania State University, Now you see it, now you don’t: Tracing the shifting in/visibility of CKDu in Dry Zone Sri Lanka 20 8:25 AM
Presenter Jennifer Sedell*, University of California, Davis, Cryptic invasions and invisible residence: politics, practices, and performance of uncertainties in invasive insect establishment and eradication 20 8:45 AM
Presenter Sara Cavallo*, Penn State University, Navigating compounding uncertainty: farmer strategies in response to banana Xanthomonas wilt in western Uganda 20 9:05 AM
Discussant Rebecca Lave Indiana University 15 9:25 AM

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