‘Making’ Climate Subjects: Examining Subjectivity, Identity, and Agency in Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation (2)

Type: Paper
Theme: Geographies of Human Rights: The Right to Benefit from Scientific Progress
Sponsor Groups: Human Dimensions of Global Change Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Rural Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Cabinet Room, Omni, West
Organizers: Meaghan Daly, Helen Rosko
Chairs: Meaghan Daly


Over the years, debates in environmental issues have expanded to critically examine science-society interactions and broader environmental governance as a means of increasing both legitimacy and ‘effectiveness’ of policy and interventions (Bulkeley & Mol, 2003). Being multi-scalar and complex, climate change mitigation and adaptation is particularly suited for investigating greater inclusivity within governance, decision-making, and knowledge production practices (Armitage et al., 2011; Collins & Ison, 2009; van Kerkhoff & Lebel, 2015). This expansion results in different understandings of science-society interactions to support the implementation of climate mitigation and adaptation projects. For example, co-production and the facilitation of participatory knowledge production and governance seeks to enhance accountability and equity within processes of climate mitigation and adaptation. Often designed by external actors, these arrangements frequently seek to ‘target’ a particular group of ‘beneficiaries’ or ‘users’ so that climate-related interventions, projects, governance, and knowledge bases reflect targeted livelihoods and lived experiences. This ‘targeting’ of participation in climate mitigation and adaptation intervention requires the creation, deployment, and alignment of categorizations and boundaries to define who knows about climate change, who is affected by it, what should be done, and who should benefit. Leach, Scoones, & Wynne (2005, p. 5) point out that “representational knowledge is not simply that, but is also subtly performative…project[ing] models of the human subject into the public world.” The ‘success’ of climate mitigation and adaptation projects thus requires the production of compliant, idealized – and also partial – subjectivities in alignment with the particular logics, goals, and normativities embedded within these projects. Yet, individuals are not powerless and subjectivities are not fixed. Rather, subjectivities can be contested and/or (re-)produced through the performance of multiple, overlapping, and relational identities.

This session examines the relational and oppositional spaces in which subjectivity, identity, and agency are negotiated and realized (see e.g., Butler, 1990; Foucault, 1982; Jasanoff, 2004) within science-society interactions and, particularly, climate change mitigation and adaptation projects. We aim to explore the ways in which subjectivities are not only created in accordance with dominant discourses, but also in resistance to these, and with what effect.

• Exploring the ways subjectivity, identity and agency are produced, realized, and/or resisted through climate mitigation and adaptation discourses and projects
• Understanding the complex relations between uncertainty, credibility, and social and political legitimacy in climate mitigation and adaptation science, policy, and practice
• Empirical studies that critically illuminate spaces of: climate science/society tensions; relations of power within co-productions of knowledge and climate mitigation/adaptation; material impacts of climate interventions on lives and livelihoods
• Critical methodologies/frameworks for identifying and explaining productive tensions in science-society interactions and relations
• New theoretical directions in exploring subjectivity, identity, and agency, including in the areas of relational ontologies, intersubjectivity, and new materialism


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Rachel Harcourt*, , Wandi Bruine de Bruin, University of Leeds, Suraje Dessai, University of Leeds, Andrea Taylor, University of Leeds, Watching helplessly: newspaper coverage of the roles for individuals and homeowners as the UK adapts to a changing climate 20 5:00 PM
Presenter Jamie Shinn*, West Virginia University, Transformative adaptation in South Africa: Insights for scholarship and policy 20 5:20 PM
Presenter Lourdes Ginart*, University of Oregon, Science Diplomacy in the Americas: A Case Study of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research 20 5:40 PM
Presenter Laura Kuhl*, Northeastern University, Elizabeth Minchew, Tufts University, Investing in climate information systems: crowding out alternative adaptation strategies? 20 6:00 PM

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