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Accepted Paper:

Extinction Rebellion as a movement of ethical and ontological transformation.  
Hannah Fitchett (University of St Andrews)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ongoing fieldwork with Extinction Rebellion (XR) in London this paper explores XR’s aim to build a ‘regenerative culture’, examining what praxes are considered ‘regenerative’, when and with whom these praxes are considered inappropriate, and the relationships and ontology they produce.

Paper long abstract:

Despite mobilising to ‘halt mass extinction’ resulting from climate breakdown, Extinction Rebellion (XR) do not identify as an environmental movement. They distinguish themselves from other direct-action movements addressing environmental breakdown through their unique foundational aim to build a ‘regenerative culture’.

XR define ‘regenerative culture’ in loose terms as based on an ethic of interlinking selfcare, interpersonal care, and care for the Earth. In practice, ‘regenerative culture’ is enacted through activities such as reading ‘regen reminders’ during meetings and taking breaks to avoid ‘burnout’. XR activists often refer to ‘regenerative culture’ to praise or condemn certain communication styles or behaviours, and tensions within the movement are frequently attributed to insufficient ‘regenerative culture’.

Drawing on ongoing ethnographic fieldwork with XR London, this paper explores why XR London activists consider ‘regenerative culture’ missing in some aspects of XR activism, yet inappropriate when engaging with the state through direct-action. I examine how XR London activists’ behaviours and communication differs during direct-action compared with during practices considered ‘regenerative’, and what this indicates about how these activists distinguish their relationships with the state from their relationships with people and non-human life. I investigate how these distinctions relate to tensions in XR over whether direct-action or building ‘regenerative culture’ should be prioritised, and to power inequalities, both internal and external to XR.

Effective climate crisis mitigation requires replacing the modernist nature/humanity dichotomy. XR’s ‘regenerative culture’ appears to be attempting this on a transnational scale, therefore I hope this research may assist the ontological shift climate breakdown demands.

Panel P16a
Visions of transformation in the Anthropocene: technology, political-moral imagination, and the cascading socio-environmental crises of the twenty-first century
  Session 1 Thursday 9 June, 2022, -