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Accepted Paper:

Heating it up: on knowledge, power, and the anthropology of climate change  


Sabine Teryngel (Philipps-University Marburg)
Marlen Ott (Philipps-University Marburg)

Paper short abstract:

Observing a growing interest in knowledge and its production in anthropological studies on climate change, resilience, and local adaptation, this paper critically challenges such an epistemological understanding of knowledge as place-based, isolated, static and held by an imagined, homogenized other

Paper long abstract:

This paper critically reviews current anthropological debates on knowledge production and climate change. It discusses power inequalities and the positioning of the anthropologist in ongoing research projects that are located in reception and observation studies, vulnerability assessments, and others. We observe that the way in which these projects engage with crucial questions in the emerging field of the anthropology of climate change, is a return to the use of arguments and methods brought up by early ethnoecological approaches. Just like its predecessor such ethnoclimatological analysis carries the risk of reproducing dangerous ideas of homogenous, solitary groups, and unreflected hierarchies between local/place-based knowledge and globalized scientific knowledge.

We aim to demonstrate the epistemological assumptions that are shaping the process of the anthropological inquiry about knowledge. Furthermore, we argue that research is influenced by utilitarian claims made in climate change adaptation projects and seldomly reflects on the control and accessibility over its research outcomes and their uses.

In response to this criticism, we argue for an anthropology transcending such binary conceptions of difference that needs to consider knowledge production as a process shaped by historical and current power structures. This requires the radical decolonization of anthropology, its methods and approaches, the exploring of alternative methodologies and the recognition of dynamic connections and thinking beyond the boundaries of and imposed by western science. Finally, the realistic reflection of the systematic structures in which our discipline and we as researchers are entangled must be visualized, not only theoretically, but also in research practice.

Panel P141
Deferred horizons: Whose anthropology is this?