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Exposing the multi-dimensional legalities of global governance: field inquiry at climate negotiations

Authors: Brandon Derman*, University of Illinois - Springfield, IL
Topics: Qualitative Methods, Legal Geography, Global Change
Keywords: legal geography, qualitative methods, climate change, UNFCCC, global governance
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Based on qualitative fieldwork at four sessions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, this paper critically examines methods to better understand the complex legalities that animate and emerge from the Convention and similar settings. Such settings are multi-dimensional objects of investigation. They are institutions structured by formal rules that produce texts intended to guide conduct, but they are also social settings involving relationships and the performance of specific roles and norms which may be informal, and these too shape textual outcomes and their impacts. Finally, such settings are event spaces, where governance may evolve dramatically over a brief period through the interaction of individuals in specific geo-historical contexts. “Law” is performed and written in a concentrated and conflictual fashion here, with potentially broad and lasting import. Traditional qualitative methods each provide a window with but a partial view on one or more aspects of these multi-dimensional legalities. Accordingly, this paper examines promises, limits, and conditional synergies between methods, drawing on examples from the research to show how they may, in combination, more fully elucidate the meaning and power of legality as it flows through climate negotiations.

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