Programme

(T077)
Local knowledge in a changing climate: the experimental politics of coproduction
Location M215
Date and Start Time 01 September, 2016 at 11:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Nicole Klenk (University of Toronto) email
  • Katie Meehan (University of Oregon) email

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Short Abstract

Climate change has raised the stakes for the inclusion of local knowledge in science and policy. In this track we explore the generation and use of local knowledge, with a focus on experiments in democratic knowledge coproduction and implications for organizing effective publics and institutions.

Long Abstract

Climate change is rapidly transforming the lives, livelihoods, and survival of individuals and communities in many parts of the world. Local knowledge is at the crux of this process. While the term originally referred to indigenous or 'traditional' ways of knowing, in this session we broaden the definition to "tacit knowledge embodied in life experiences and reproduced in everyday behavior and speech" with an emphasis of including knowledge by any individual, indigenous or not (Cruikshank, 2005: 19; Turnbull, 1998). Local knowledge is often romanticized, or depicted as "static, timeless and hermetically sealed" (Cruikshank, 2005: 10). Yet local knowledge is not a pot of gold waiting to be discovered, but instead is the effect of a history of encounters: between science and society, between residents and strangers, between stories new and old, between people and changing landscapes (Shepherd, 2010). Not all forms of local knowledge are compatible—with science or other local systems—nor are they all recognized as valid and useful; thus asking whose knowledge and which knowledge gets folded into the adaptation agenda are inherently political questions (Klenk and Meehan, 2015). The session draws on the 'experimental turn' in the environmental social sciences and humanities to explore how local knowledge is produced under experimental conditions and the implications of these 'leaps into the unknown' for the organization of effective publics and institutions. We pry open the black box of local knowledge to examine its coproduction, mobilization, and applications in the fields of climate change adaptation and environmental politics.

SESSIONS: 5/5

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Climate hazards, local knowledge co-production, and the emergence of climate adaptation publics: governance implications

Authors: Nicole Klenk (University of Toronto)  email
Dragos Flueraru  email
James MacLellan (University of Toronto)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper, we ask how are climate hazards, local knowledge, affects and political forms assembled and generated by adaptation planning? Additionally, we ask how climate change preparedness comes to articulate and embody social imaginaries of the future and the governance arrangements these call forth.

Long Abstract

In this paper, we ask how are climate hazards, local knowledge, affects and political forms assembled and generated by adaptation planning? Additionally, we ask how climate change preparedness comes to articulate and embody social imaginaries of the future and the governance arrangements these call forth. Using a case study of a community-based adaptation planning process in 5 coastal communities of the province of New Brunswick, Canada, we demonstrate how community-based adaptation planning is an instance of local knowledge co-production enlisting new entities, organizational forms and identities. We argue furthermore, that in the process of adaptation planning, the material dynamics of climate change impacts and local knowledge co-production must be understood as constitutive of the formation of a "climate adaptation public" in the Deweyan sense. Drawing upon the notion of 'material participation' developed by Noortje Marres (2012), we argue that attending to the specificity and contingency of social-material co-production of local knowledge gives rise to specific governance challenges. Current governance arrangements may not be adequate to the task of empowering and coordinating emerging climate adaptation publics, and keeping different levels of climate adaptation decision-making transparent, adaptive and accountable. We sketch how more experimental forms of governance could be designed to support climate adaptation publics in New Brunswick and derive insights from this case study to inform climate adaptation governance more generally.

Taking Knowledge Apart So That We Can Put It Together Again: Examining Processes of Co-production of Climate Knowledges and Adaptation in Tanzania

Author: Meaghan Daly (University of Colorado Boulder)  email

Short Abstract

Using a modified actor-network analysis, this paper illustrates the dynamic complexities at the interfaces of 'local' and 'scientific' knowledges at multiple institutional scales for adaptation decision-making in Tanzania.

Long Abstract

Calls to integrate 'local' and 'scientific' knowledges for climate adaptation decision-making have proliferated in the last decade. However, such calls are often rooted in problematic assumptions about the 'divide' between kinds of knowledge, the scales at which they are applicable (e.g., temporal, geographic), who is authorized to 'hold' and represent them, and the inherent possibility and benefit of combining them. This paper will employ a 'rooted' actor-network analysis (cf. Rocheleau and Roth 2007) to examine the multiple knowledges that have been invoked for the purposes of adaptation at multiple institutional scales in Tanzania. Such an approach insists on symmetrical interrogation of all knowledges, as well as the webs of relations and power that enable their (co-)production and mobilization. Through this lens, the paper will critically apply the knowledge system criteria (i.e., credibility, salience, and legitimacy - see Cash et al. 2003) to illustrate the dynamic complexities at the interfaces of knowledges in climate adaptation decision-making at multiple institutional scales, with implications for understanding processes of co-production more broadly. Such a vantage complicates typical understandings and categorizations of knowledge within adaptation discourses to: 1) illustrate the hybrid nature of knowledge, 2) make visible the work required to 'separate' local and scientific knowledges, 3) expose how knowledge becomes considered 'valid' within adaptation decision-making, and 4) explore what this implies for co-production processes. The analysis draws on interviews, planned group discussions, and ethnographic observation conducted in 2 villages in northern Tanzania, as well as government agencies and NGOs in Dar es Salaam.

Where is "local" ? The changing knowledge about climate in Khumbu

Author: Ornella Puschiasis (CNRS Centre for Himalayan Studies)  email

Short Abstract

Knowledge production in Khumbu is re-evaluated by questioning so-called "local" climate-based narratives derived from the Sherpas. I study the difference between multiscale discourses, and how different sources of knowledge reconfigure "local knowledge", and the part researchers play in this.

Long Abstract

The Khumbu region (Everest) has become emblematic of scientific and media discourses on climate change. Pictures of glaciers melting have led to alarmist rhetoric about the future of water resources. For the Sherpas, experiencing climate change seems a minor concern compared to the international alarm it has raised. This paper addresses two debates from a social constructivist approach to local knowledge production: firstly, the difference between the local and the global scale, and the ongoing discursive bias that contributes to the tension in this region which is attracting many researchers, journalists and international experts; secondly, the multiple sources of "local" knowledge since the onset of tourism in the 1950s, since the Khumbu and its Sherpa population stepped into the globalized world and became an interconnected society. My arguments are based on long-term fieldwork and two hundred interviews with local people and institutions, and reveal that climate change discourses here are framed by "agents", especially researchers. I discuss the role scientists play in changing local knowledge. The Everest region has been instrumentalized in research and in environmental policies since the Theory of Himalayan Environmental Degradation (Ives and Messerli, 1989); today a new climate change paradigm exists. It seems relevant to explore the way Sherpas interpret, reappropriate this global climate change discourse and what this form of interpretation, adaptation, consists in, which economic interests, which social and power relations, lie behind this form of reappropriation.

An exploration of more comprehensive forms of engagement with the Mayan culture in the coproduction of public policies to mitigate the impact of climate change in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Authors: Linda Russell (Universidad Autónoma de Campeche)  email
Laura García (Instituto Pedagógico Campechano)  email
Said Jose Abud (CEPHCIS, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)  email
Cessia Chuc (Autonomous University of Campeche)  email

Short Abstract

In the Yucatan Peninsula indigenous complex relational observations regarding minute local changes in flora and fauna due to climate change suggest transdisciplinary opportunities and challenges for engagement with Mayan culture in the mitigation of the impact of climate change

Long Abstract

There is growing recognition that responses to climate change need to go beyond technological and policy initiatives to include local and indigenous knowledges and practices which not only harbour information concerning the impact of climate change on particular ecosystems but also constitute a vital medium which needs to adapt and evolve to strengthen ecosystem resilience. In south east Mexico, there is a local general awareness of changing rain patterns, increased extremes in seasonal temperatures and reduced soil quality. A source of more specialised environmental knowledge resides in the Mayan communities whose culture is still largely organized around the agricultural calendar according to the periodicity of wet and dry seasons which in turn temporalizes the related religious offerings, thereby sustaining in differing degrees the Mayan pre-colonial world view. Public policy engagement with Mayan communities has, nevertheless, to date been mainly limited to restricting sustenance hunting and ancient practices of slash and burn land clearance, although since 1997 an option for participating in environmental management units (UMAs) was established; likewise environmental education programmes remain basic, apparently aimed at an urbanised population. Preliminary results from a study of indigenous knowledge of climate change in the Yucatan Peninsula show Mayan environmental knowledge as fundamentally holistic and hence ecological, proffering complex relational observations regarding minute local changes in flora and fauna due to climate change, thus indicating transdisciplinary opportunities and challenges (Klenk and Meehan, 2015), for engagement with the Mayan culture in the coproduction of public policies to mitigate the impact of climate change.

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The French agroecological transition: political choices underlying local knowledge's recognition

Author: Jessica Thomas (INRA- Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique)  email

Short Abstract

In its support for an "agroecological transition", the French government communicates on a founding principle of agroecology: the recognition of local knowledge (LK) to improve innovations resilience. The paper questions "valuations" of diverse LK, and political choices underlying co-construction.

Long Abstract

A founding principle of the original and dissenting definition of "agroecology" (AE) is the recognition of local knowledge relevance to improve the resilience of food systems. Since the 1980s, social movements in developing countries fought for a radical change in food regime, as well as in "knowledge production regime" (Pestre, 2003). The concept of AE circulated from activist spaces to political and scientific spaces (De Schutter, 2011).

An appropriation of AE started in 2012, when the French ministry of agriculture launched a new political dynamic toward an "agroecological transition". This political narrative transformed AE in a new paradigm for agricultural policies. Knowledge "co-construction" appeared as the new innovation path to follow. Many activists and scientists (Altieri, 2005) identified the risk of the redefinition of AE through discourses and policies instruments, accepting controversial technics (e.g. precision farming).

Public policies integrated the initial criticisms voiced by AE activists toward a top-down knowledge production regime. However the references to local knowledge are also resulting from political, scientific and social choices. Particular types of local knowledge are considered and promoted, and specific methods of co-construction are implemented. Power dynamics around knowledge for farming practices are evolving following the recognition of local knowledge relevance, but asymmetries persist. We argue that the French government appropriation of AE transformed its initial political and epistemological dimensions. In order to go beyond a limited analysis of a "reintegration of criticism", we will describe what types of professionals' local knowledge are promoted, and through which knowledge productions dynamics.

The politics of 'local knowledge' in English water science and governance

Author: Catharina Landstrom (Chalmers University of Technology)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the ways in which different uses of the notion 'local knowledge' align with political presuppositions among actors involved with the governance of water related risks in England.

Long Abstract

This paper examines some of the ways in which actors involved with flood and drought risk science and management in England use the notion of 'local knowledge'. It aims to map connections between meanings of the notion and political assumptions guiding research design and decision making frameworks.

Over the last decade 'local knowledge' has become a popular notion among experts and agencies involved with managing risks posed by and to waterways in England. Used by policy makers, scientists, technical consultants and environmental NGOs the meaning of the term varies widely although, it seems always to be carrying positive connotations of democracy and participation.

On the one hand, the variability in meaning could be understood as plasticity that makes the notion useful as a boundary object facilitating negotiation and compromise. On the other hand, the changeable meanings of the term could obscure unequal power relations and patterns of exclusion in risk governance.

Starting with mapping uses of 'local knowledge' I move on to consider how different uses of the notion correspond with politics of knowledge which reinforce certain political assumptions among the diverse actors involved with water management. Finally, I draw on two experiments with environmental competency groups co-producing knowledge and redistributing expertise to highlight some aspects of 'local knowledge' that are overlooked in most usages

Niche experiments in network dysfunction: water technologies in Mexico City

Author: Katie Meehan (University of Oregon)  email

Short Abstract

This presentation draws on an ethnographic study of small-scale water technologies in Mexico City to examine the role of local knowledge, technology, and power relations in catalyzing 'niche' innovations and shaping urban transitions to sustainable water supply.

Long Abstract

Theories of sociotechnical transition provide a valuable framework for understanding shifts in urban technological practice, yet the approach has largely focused on elite actors and knowledge systems in the global North. In this study, I explore the emergence of a 'niche' water innovation in Mexico City--the improved design of domestic rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems, intended to coexist with network water--to understand the role of local knowledge, practice, and power relations that catalyze niche innovations and shape urban transitions to sustainable water supply. Drawing on ethnographic and survey data of innovators and water users, findings indicate that RWH systems improve key aspects of household water security, allowing technology adopters to absorb 'shocks' created by network dysfunction and inequities in access. At the same time, the empowerment of individual users works against the broader knowledge politics of Mexican water authority and control. In Mexico City, state reluctance to move beyond modernist water regimes both inhibits the formalization and 'scaling-up' of grassroots water technologies and also perpetuates existing network dysfunction and disrepair. Transition to more sustainable and 'climate-proof' modes of urban water supply will entail major changes in seemingly ironclad norms of expertise, knowledge, and technology in water governance.

Livelihood experiments creating hybrid knowledge for sustainability transitions

Authors: Suvi Huttunen (Finnish Environment Institute (Syke))  email
Stephen Zavestoski  email

Short Abstract

Livelihood experiments aimed to improve practitioner’s living have gained low attention in the ‘experimental turn’. We explore the role of particular livelihood experiments, farmers’ experiments, in the creation of local and hybrid knowledge and their implications for environmental governance.

Long Abstract

Experiments are gaining momentum in contributing to sustainability transitions especially in the face of climate change. The rapidly increasing experimenting literature tends to focus on formally designed local experiments paying little attention to the incremental experimenting performed by various entrepreneurs with the motivation to improve their livelihood. Our paper focuses on these livelihood experiments and explores their role in knowledge coproduction and implications for environmental governance. Livelihood experiments bring forward the issues of connecting local and scientific knowledge, power asymmetries and contributing to developments in participatory (transdisciplinary) science. We review the literature on one type of livelihood experiment, farmer's experiments, in order to find out how they are contributing, and could potentially contribute in the future, to the creation of new knowledge and innovations. We argue that scientific and local knowledge get mixed in farming practices and experiments form a site of hybridizing knowledge. Integration of formal scientific knowledge with local knowledge goes beyond the naïve assertion that local knowledge has value and that science is abstract and disconnected from local context. A major challenge of leveraging knowledge produced through livelihood experiments is unlocking such knowledge from the typically isolated contexts in which it occurs. We argue that new institutions may need to be formed that can tap into local knowledge, organize it, and integrate it with top-down knowledge. The acknowledgement of the role of livelihood experiments in mediating between different types of knowledge allows for improving the ways of spreading and re-localizing sustainability innovations developed elsewhere.

Reimagining the role of environmental sciences and sustainable development in Costa Rica

Author: Francesc Rodriguez (York University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the imaginaries involved in the production and contestation of knowledge in the context of an environmental controversy in Costa Rica. Drawing on several methods,the paper stresses the need to reimagine the current prominent role of science in legitimating interventions in nature

Long Abstract

Environmental impact assessments (EIA) have supremacy over other forms of knowledge in estimating the impact of infrastructures on nature in Costa Rica. This authority is granted by the law 7554 of 1996, which contains eight articles that transfer exclusive responsibility to an "interdisciplinary group of professionals" for monitoring and judging the consequences of human activities for nature. In the context of an environmental controversy surrounding the construction of run-of-the-river dams, this paper shows how local communities challenge the EIA for the proposed hydroelectric projects. Drawing on interviews, visual data and participant observations, this paper examines the imaginaries at play both in the contestation by local communities of the environmental knowledge produced through the EIA and in the creation of alternative forms of knowledge about nature. At the end, the paper argues for a deeper appreciation of the concept of imaginaries in exploring practices of knowing nature, and suggests the need to reimagine the current prominent status of environmental science in the institutional landscape of Costa Rica. This is especially pressing, as the country undergoes its energy transition under climate change and calls for public participation of local communities in environmental knowledge are increasingly frequent. This work contributes to existing research at the intersection of science and technology studies, political ecology and environmental sociology

Science and democracy by other means? Co-producing Future Earth.

Author: Eleanor Hadley Kershaw (University of Nottingham)  email

Short Abstract

Future Earth is an international research initiative on global environmental change and sustainability, with a strong focus on co-design/co-production. This paper explores Future Earth as emergent experiment, co-produced with particular notions and systems of science, democracy, and local knowledge.

Long Abstract

Future Earth is an international research initiative on global environmental change (GEC) and sustainability that was launched in 2012, merging several existing international GEC research programmes. In its strong emphasis on the co-design and co-production of research at global, regional, and local levels, Future Earth offers the potential to challenge existing hegemonies in the production of knowledge and assemble new participatory collectives. This paper explores the analytical possibilities and ontological politics opened up in examining Future Earth as emergent, experimental and distributed participatory collective(s), co-produced with particular notions and systems of science, democracy, and local knowledge. Drawing on a qualitative case study of Future Earth (using documentary analysis, in depth interviews, focus groups and participant observation), it explores and positions Future Earth in relation to other experiments in democratic knowledge co-production (Klenk and Meehan, 2015) and ecologies of participation (Chilvers and Kearnes, 2016). In particular, it asks: whose and which knowledge is valued in Future Earth? What role is envisaged for and performed by local knowledge, and how is it (co-)produced? Which technologies of participation and experiments in co-production has Future Earth adopted, and how are they challenged or transformed in its international context and at global scale? And (how) can research policy, coordination, and institutions be (re)arranged to acknowledge and allow space for experimentation, local knowledge, diverse publics, and the performance of science and democracy by other means?

This track is closed to new paper proposals.