The power to stay: Mainstreaming climate adaptation, displacement, and agrarian change in Indonesia

Authors: Sean Kennedy*, University of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Economic Geography, Rural Geography
Keywords: climate finance, displacement, agrarian change, climate adaptation
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 15
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Displacement due to environmental hazards such as sea-level rise and extreme weather has long been a focus of climate adaptation and migration research (Bettini and Andersson 2014). As adaptation scholarship has evolved to account for the multi-scalar social production of vulnerability (Taylor 2013; Ribot 2010), scholars have highlighted the role of extra-environmental factors, including financial risk (Isakson 2015) and forms of social control (Thomas and Warner 2019), in shaping processes of climate-related displacement. This article examines the ways that private climate adaptation finance – an essential element of efforts to ‘mainstream’ climate adaptation in the global South (Huq et al. 2004; Scoville-Simonds, Jamali, and Hufty 2020) – articulates with the structural and environmental processes shaping cocoa smallholder vulnerability and displacement in rural Indonesia. Following an overview of the private adaptation investment landscape in Indonesia, I examine the discursive formation and implementation of agri-foods giant Mars’ recent efforts to increase the productivity and environmental sustainability of smallholder cocoa farmers on the island of Sulawesi. I argue that Mars’ efforts to fix capital and labor in space through the displacement of financial and environmental risks inevitably run up against broader processes of agrarian transformation in which voluntary and involuntary relocation of bodies and risks serve complex political economic and environmental agendas. By highlighting the discursive and material tensions between climate adaptation, displacement, and agrarian change, this work raises new questions with regard to who and what is displaced and how in the ongoing push to mainstream climate adaptation in the global South.

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