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Critical Geographies of Imagination and Environmental Governance I

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 8:40 AM / 9:55 AM (MDT)
Room: Virtual Track 1
Organizers: David Eisenhauer, Rajiv Ghimire
Chairs: David Eisenhauer


Scholarship on environmental and climate governance is increasingly examining the roles of imaginative and imaginaries in policy and planning. This turn towards imagination reflects a growing recognition that, while the emerging ecological, meteorological, material, and social conditions of the Earth will be distinct from historical patterns, many communities continue to envision futures that are largely similar to the past and present. In light of this, scholars, practitioners, and activists are increasingly framing climate change and other forms of global environmental change as 'imaginative challenges' (Alaimo 2016; Ghosh 2016; Heise 2016; Haraway 2016; Norgaard 2011). Thus, it is now often argued that efforts to addresses the causes and consequences of global environmental change must begin to connect such changes to the social, technological, spatial, and political imaginaries of communities in order to begin implementing policy pathways towards more desirable and vibrant futures (Bai et al. 2016; Gupta and Pouw 2017; McPhearson et al. 2016). Such approaches and techniques frame imagination and imaginaries as both objects of governance (i.e. something to target for change or manage) as well as tools of governance (i.e. something to draw upon to achieve change). Examples of the former approach includes initiatives such as the transition movement (Feola and Nunes 2014), post-development (Escobar 2015), and degrowth (Brand et al. 2017). Examples of the latter approach includes planning and policy practices such as foresight exercises (Vervoort and Gupta 2018), storytelling (Veland et al. 2018), worldmaking scenarios (Vervoort et al. 2015), and co-design (Page et al. 2016).

Critical geographic scholarship can deepen and enrich this process by opening up theorizations of 'governance', 'imagination', and 'desirable futures' to account for the uneven distributions of power that authorize some practices, visions, expectations, and aspirations as plausible while dismissing others as impossible. The objective of this session is to address the potential questions such a focus can bring to light, such as, but not limited to:

• How and why is imagination being used within environmental governance?
• What opportunities and issues does imagination open up in environmental governance?
• How do different imaginations become authorized as legitimate or illegitimate and plausible or implausible?
• What are the limits of prevailing social, political, economic, and/or technical imaginaries in envisioning socially and ecologically vibrant and desirable futures?
• How might approaches for incorporating and/or managing imaginaries in environmental governance further entrench unsustainable and unjust visions, aspirations, and expectations for the future?
• How can a diversity of imaginaries be nurtured in which different collective visions, values, and practices can be debated and negotiated?
• How might radical imaginaries be cultivated that respond to the unique urgencies of the Anthropocene?


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Introduction David Eisenhauer Rutgers 5 8:40 AM
Presenter Rajiv Ghimire*, Arizona State University, Imagining clumsy solution to the wicked problem of climate change adaptation 14 8:45 AM
Presenter Elena Louder*, University of Arizona, Conservation Narratives: How stories shape the evolving conservation landscape 14 8:59 AM
Presenter Miao-ling Hasenkamp*, , Zhanli Sun, Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies, Changing Nature and Changing Humans? A Cross-Cultural Comparative Study of the Human-Nature Relationship and the Role of Technology 14 9:13 AM
Presenter Kevin Inks*, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Reimagining a Violent Landscape: Disaster, Displacement, and Cartographic Imagination in the Brahmaputra River Valley 14 9:27 AM
Discussant Netra Chhetri Arizona State University 14 9:41 AM

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