ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE AND THE DEPARTMENT OF AFRICA, OCEANIA AND THE AMERICAS OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM

Anthropology, Weather & Climate Change

(P03)
Climate Change and the Future: Exploring the 'Social Time' of Transformation through Scenario-based Practice
Location Senate House - Holden Room
Date and Start Time 27 May, 2016 at 11:30
Sessions 1

Convenor

  • Daniel Murphy (University of Cincinnati) email

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Short Abstract

Current anthropological interest with 'time' parallels an orientation in climate adaptation planning towards the future. This panel brings together expertise on 'social time' with expertise in future-oriented adaptation such as scenario-building to explore synergies in research and practice.

Long Abstract

Since the work of Harvey (1991), anthropological scholarship has becoming increasingly interested with the 'temporal' aspects of global transformation and more recently, the future (Appadurai 2013). With widespread and potentially catastrophic threats such as climate change throwing into doubt our future viability as a species and the spread of globally dominant regimes of 'social time' rooted in both capitalist processes and modernist manifestations of 'risk society' (Beck 1992), the problem of 'time' plagues our search for solutions to a panoply of vexing and deeply complex challenges. Climate change adaptation planning, in particular, is increasingly shifting towards a future orientation centered around the potential for transformative solutions to both the root causes of anthropogenic climate change and local materializations of its impacts. Consequently, adaptation practitioners are increasingly finding value in the potential of scenario-based methodologies and tools to confront a diverse array of problems from species conservation to poverty alleviation. However, within scenario-based practices, issues surrounding the problem of 'social time' continue to present challenges. In particular, a lack of understanding of the diverse articulations of the ontological, phenomenological, and epistemological bases of 'social time', which shape not only perceptions of 'risk' and 'uncertainty' but transformation itself, limit the power of such tools. This panel aims to bring together cross-cultural expertise on 'social time' with practical expertise in future-oriented adaptation such as scenario-building to explore innovative synergies in research and practice.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Scenario Practice and the Politics of Co-Production: Building Equity and Reflexivity into Climate Change Adaptation Planning through the 'Anthropology of Time'

Authors: Daniel Murphy (University of Cincinnati)  email
Carina Wyborn (Luc Hoffmann Institute)  email

Short Abstract

This paper argues for a more equitable and reflexive model of scenario-based forms of adaptation planning by incorporating scholarship from the anthropology of time. Drawing on cases of scenario practice and ethnographic research on time, the paper offers pathways forward for improved co-production

Long Abstract

Scenario-based adaptation processes are often initiated not by communities or local actors but rather by academics or governmental and non-governmental practitioners. As such, following Textor et al's (1996) concept of 'tempocentrism', we argue that the dynamic narrative world-building of scenario practice can operate as a kind of 'vortex' (Fairhead and Leach 2003) privileging certain kinds of knowledge and ways of being while eclipsing if not erasing others.

As a response, in this paper, we explore the inherent temporal politics at play in scenario practices and the ways an 'anthropology of time' can contribute to building equity and reflexivity. To do so, this paper draws on various case studies that illustrate key moments in scenario-building practice where an anthropology of time could help practitioners recognize diverse temporalities. In particular we focus on temporal orders and the directionality of time, the temporal effects of social processes and drivers of change, and the ontological and epistemological temporalities of plausibility/probability. By attending to these, we also draw on advances in the anthropology of time, focusing in particular on the ontological and phenomenological components of temporal culture, the narrative and discursive framings of time as place (and vice versa), and the temporalities of politics.

Ultimately, this paper formulates an argument for a more just and equitable model of scenario-based forms of adaptation planning in which local actors and communities can craft meaningful visions of the future and where practitioners can develop the reflexive awareness of how scenario practices work as mechanisms of social change.

Un-imagining the future: Exploring urban imaginaries of climate change in Jinja, Uganda

Author: Katie McQuaid (University of Leeds)  email

Short Abstract

In urban Uganda, narratives of climate change are interwoven with experiences of urban poverty that obfuscate not just the possibility of an immediate future, but the longer-term horizons for future generations. This paper argues for attention to how the future is un-imagined by urban communities.

Long Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic and community theatre work, this paper examines how an urban community in Jinja, a town in Eastern Uganda, understand climate change in the context of discussions about environmental change and an increasingly uncertain future. For many entrenched in urban poverty, narratives of climate change are inextricably interwoven with, and even eclipsed by, the difficulties faced by men and women as they navigate competing demands, and this paper thus argues for critical attention to how the future is un-imagined by urban communities. As discussions of sustainability and environmental conservation surface amidst a surging population, rampant deforestation and urbanisation, and increasingly erratic weather, this paper highlights the conditions which obfuscate not just the conditions of possibility of an immediate future, but the longer-term horizons for future generations; and thus have critical implications for developing tools and approaches in climate adaptation practice, and developing local interventions in building sustainable urban societies.

Past-forwarding ancient calamities. Possibilistic thinking, historical thinking and disaster risk reduction

Author: Felix Riede (Aarhus University)  email

Short Abstract

Using volcanic eruptions as example, this paper argues that the geo-cultural heritage of ancient calamities can be a productive foundation for scenario-based adaptation measures to natural disasters.

Long Abstract

Extreme climatic events and natural disasters often have a recurrence periodicity beyond that of ethnographic, sociological and at times even historical investigation. In a deep historical perspective focused on geo-cultural heritage, however, human communities of many different kinds have been affected by numerous kinds of natural disasters that may provide useful data for scenario-based risk reduction management vis-à-vis future calamities. Using selected past volcanic eruptions as examples and merging Lee Clarke's sociological argument for 'possibilistic thinking' and David Staley's notion of 'historical thinking' with a concern for contemporary and future resilience, this papers suggests that such comparative, cross-cultural 'palaeosocial' information on the constellations of vulnerability and resilience pertinent to deep-time disasters can be 'past-forwarded' and used in present-day disaster risk reduction.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.