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Accepted paper:

Ethnography, emotion and the international at the United Nations Climate Conference


Matilda Fitzmaurice (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

A presentation of an ethnographic account of the politics of emotion at the UNFCCC Climate Change Conference and a reflection on the analytical purchase offered by the 'international' within scholarly work on the politics of affect/emotion.

Paper long abstract:

Geographers have played a critical role in reconceptualising of spaces of international climate change as both boundary spaces and arenas inseparable from the politics of emotion (e.g. Farbotko & McGregor 2010; Mahoney 2013). In this paper, I build off this work in order to make two contributions. First, I offer a series of textured ethnographic vignettes I generated during PhD fieldwork at two UN Climate Conferences (Conferences of the Parties, or COPs) in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Drawing on these qualitative materials and in a contrast to the high drama of the final hours in the negotiating rooms, I bear witness to the 'COP' as a stultifying, slowly frustrating and anxiety-inducing edifice that projects these effects beyond its physical extremities. Second, from the point of view of the climate emergency and elsewhere, we are on threshold of a new decade in which the 'international' as both an organising framework and a liberal humanist ideal appear under threat (internationally networked far-right politics, erosion of climate multilateralism etc.), yet also pregnant with new possibilities (e.g. global Green New Deal, climate justice movements). As such, secondly I wish to use this intervention to propose closer engagement with the 'international' as a concept with potential to enrich and take forward discussions around the politics of affect and/or emotion currently present within our two disciplines.

panel AA09
The Politics of Emotion across Anthropology and Geography