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Responsibility and blame in the transformational projects of the Anthropocene 
David Humphrey (University of St Andrews)
Kirsten Campbell (Loughborough University)
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Irresponsibility and Failure
Wednesday 31 March, 20:00-21:30 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

The global challenges of the Anthropocene have mobilised ambitious projects of social, environmental and moral transformation in the service of utopian futures. This panel explores how those involved with such projects experience their failings and attribute blame and responsibility for them.

Long Abstract

The contemporary global challenges of the Anthropocene have engendered large-scale projects of moral, environmental and social transformation. These projects often feature starkly contrasting representations of the future, between apocalyptic scenarios and utopian, transformational visions. They frequently carry a strong moral dimension, in the form of mass attitudinal change, and ambitious policy commitments. Whatever the merits of such projects on their own terms, those involved in them frequently experience a degree of failure to live up to exacting ideals (Mosse 2005, Riles 2011), perceptions exacerbated by the high political stakes involved.This panel seeks to explore the dimensions of responsibility and blame in perceived failings relating to initiatives in fields such as sustainable energy production; the conversion of economic systems to sustainable bases; ecosystem management; and biodiversity conservation. How do different groups make sense of them? How is the responsibility for failure constructed and reconstructed between these groups and in what ways do they take, allocate and avoid blame (Rudiak-Gould 2019, Laidlaw 2010)? What are the criteria, institutional, instrumental or moral, by which different groups judge function and dysfunction? How does the casting of blame intersect with colonial legacies and/or social structures around gender, race, class, religion or caste? What personal narratives do people mobilise to make sense of failings? And what are the productive potentialities of attributions of failure?Participants are invited to engage with both empirical and theoretical approaches to understanding responsibility and blame within such projects, intersecting with these questions, or posing new ones of their own. ​

Accepted papers: