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Mekong Mediations: Cross-scalar knowledge translation and the politics of climate change adaptation in Vietnam

Authors: Jacob Weger*, University of Georgia
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Development, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: climate change adaptation, governance, translation, knowledge brokerage, Vietnam
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

With adaptation to climate change becoming a dominant paradigm in international development, major delta areas have been at the forefront of efforts to steer development along a “transformative” and climate-resilient path. The Mekong Delta of Vietnam, for example, has become an international laboratory for climate adaptation, guided predominantly by the Dutch-produced “Mekong Delta Plan” (2013) and funding from a recent World Bank “Integrated Climate Resilience and Sustainable Livelihoods” project. Within Vietnam, an entire multi-level governance apparatus is now engaged in furthering the climate adaptation agenda. A politics of translation is at the heart of these operations, as differently situated actors reproduce, reinterpret, and mobilize adaptation expertise in pursuit of varied objectives, seeking to move from conceptualization to implementation. This paper focuses on the key role of intermediary actors and organizations as mediators in this process, translating knowledge upwards as well as down in the governance system. Drawing on ethnographic research with Vietnamese scientists and researchers, international development organizations, agricultural extension agents, hydraulic engineers, provincial government authorities, and local officials, as well as cross-scalar network analysis, it examines the influence these actors have in shaping the trajectory of socio-ecological change in the delta. Considering the climate adaptation paradigm as an expression of “environmental rule” (McElwee 2016), the paper further considers the political agendas that are advanced and the kinds of idealized adaptation subjects produced in the process.

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