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Anthropology Beyond the Comfort Zone: Expanding Our Work into Climate Change Politics and Action on a Global Scale

Prof Edvard Hviding, University of Bergen

Friday 10 November at 5.30 pm

There is rapid growth and diversification of anthropology’s engagement with global climate change. Major conferences, substantial volumes, and a growing theoretical and conceptual debate (including such initiatives as the American Anthropological Association’s task force on climate change) combine to make climate change a central priority for current and future anthropology directed towards the shared challenges that face humankind. To what degree can we build these efforts on our received empirical wisdom, time-honoured methodologies, and mainstream theory? On the one hand, anthropologists have a global record of long-term fieldwork in places where the local effects of global climate change are felt the most. The Arctic, the Pacific Islands, and drought- and flood-prone areas of Africa and Asia come to mind. Anthropology’s collaboration with ordinary people who experience such trying circumstances can generate those eyewitness accounts that are needed to convey stark images of climate change impacts to a diversity of audiences. For building more such capacity for our discipline, innovation in our channels for dissemination, communication and co-production of knowledge is required. But other, perhaps new fields for anthropological attention also emerge as the global discourses and politics of climate change develop and diversify. I shall exemplify a range of such new field sites – perhaps outside of what many still see as anthropology’s habitual “comfort zone” – through an account of recent fieldwork I have been carrying out on multi-scale knowledge conversions, through which indigenous knowledge of Pacific Islanders are channelled through successive political, legal and diplomatic engagements. These processes are focused on Pacific efforts to re-claim – culturally, politically, legally – an ocean that is changing through global warming, sea level rise and ecological transformation. I shall discuss what sort of methodological and analytical challenges arise as my own style of Pacific anthropology is brought to bear on the events and issues at hand, and I shall try to build a general argument about an anthropology of climate change diplomacy that is simultaneously grounded in the local and the global.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to https://hviding.eventbrite.co.uk

Location : Royal Anthropological Institute
50 Fitzroy Street
United Kingdom