Chronopoliticsof Crisis: A Historical Political Ecology of Seasonal Air Pollution in NorthernThailand

Authors: Mary Mostafanezhad*, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Olivier Evrard, French Research Institute for Sustainable Development
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Cultural Geography, Asia
Keywords: Air pollution, political ecology, uncertainty, temporality, environmental governance
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 42
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Geographers' engagements with environmental crises have taken a number of forms. Some scholars argue that crises judgments are revelatory and expose the contradictions of modes of production through interruptions to socio-economic life that can no longer be ignored. Others contend that crises judgments conceal more than they reveal through the framing of crisis as "error" and the focus on technocratic solutions to political-economic problems. In this paper, we argue that the judgment of seasonal air pollution as a crisis is contingent on contestations over livelihoods and worldviews, and in doing so demonstrate how attention to chronopolitics reveals the nuanced ways people account for uncertainty in the causes and effects of anthropogenic environmental change. Based in northern Thailand, we focus on the region's annually recurring "haze crisis". In recent decades, broad shifts from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture and increased volumes of agricultural biomass burning have reportedly exacerbated the production of air pollution in the form of hazeā€”an airborne mixture of pollutants that includes gasses, fine soot particles and carbon dioxide. While causal uncertainty exists surrounding the precise combination of the socio-ecological drivers of haze production, multiple narratives circulate throughout the region, in which blame is frequently placed on smallholder farmers who have recently entered into new market relations. Situated within broader regional agrarian transitions, we draw on mixed ethnographic, archival and geospatial methods to examine the chronopolitics of seasonal air pollution and by what mechanisms such pollution comes to be constituted as a crisis.

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