Accepted paper:

"Edgeball" climates: science and low-carbon politics in China

Author:

Sam Geall (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork among contemporary Chinese journalists, this paper explains how reporters addressing the non-linear complexities of climate change find stable enough realities to generate political positions.

Paper long abstract:

In 1937, Mao Zedong observed that China, long dominated by feudalism, had "undergone great changes in the last hundred years and is now changing in the direction of a new China, liberated and free, and yet no change has occurred in her geography and climate." (Mao 2007 [1937]: 70). Climate change has since destabilized such modes of thinking about nature and society. The climate's innate instability has not only been compounded by humans, but also there is a growing understanding of the importance of the non-equilibrium dynamics (Behnke, Scoones and Kerven 1993, Ostrom 2009) and of incertitude in understanding the climate (Lahsen 2005: 895).

Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork among contemporary Chinese journalists reporting the science and politics of climate change, this paper shows how a destabilizing phenomenon with nonlinear and uncertain dynamics can be drawn upon to explore how one might proceed to develop a political position without closing down uncertainties and ambiguities and without establishing a singular narrative of a situation.

The paper shows that some Chinese journalists have created such a position: in their terms, an "edgeball" space - a word from ping-pong, used to describe politically sensitive journalism. Such edgeball spaces, the paper argues, create situations where an outcome is not known in advance: a necessary condition for politics (Massey 2005, 11-12). The paper thus attempts to investigate the interplay of epistemological and ontological positions in China's changing political and geophysical climates - and how and when this interface creates stable enough realities for people to generate political positions.

panel T030
STS and Climate Change: Perspectives on/from the Global South