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Adaptation, now?: Exploring the Politics of Climate Adaptation through Poststructuralist Discourse Theory
Södertörn University, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Environmental Science. Södertörn University, Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES), Baltic & East European Graduate School (BEEGS).
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Description
Abstract [en]

Increasing evidence of anthropogenic climate change and the recognition that warming is likely to go beyond 2°C raises the need for responses that help people cope with the anticipated changes. The rise of attention to so-called climate adaptation on political agendas at the local, national and international scale has come about with a hastily growing field of academic knowledge production. But while adaptation choices are inherently political, adaptation has been largely considered a ‘problem free’ process and ‘tame’ challenge; only a relatively small strand of scholarly work engages in critical enquiry into the idea of adaptation, the discursive practices through which it is imagined, and related questions of power and politics.

Responding to calls for more attention to the socio-political dimensions of adaptation and for conceptually embedded research, this thesis investigates the creation, interpretation and use of adaptation as a concept in research, policy and practice. Drawing on Poststructuralist Discourse Theory and the so-called Logics of Critical Explanation in particular, it develops a perspective through which the politics of adaptation can be investigated in a theoretically and methodologically consistent and transparent manner. Through a close analysis of official adaptation discourses at the international level, the EU level, and the national level in Germany, the thesis enquires into the discursive practices around adaptation responses and what these different discourses open up or limit in terms of broader implications for political action.

The contributions of the thesis are empirical, methodological and conceptual. In addition to providing critical insights into contemporary understandings of adaptation, including revealing some depoliticising ‘building blocks’ in conventional adaptation discourses, the thesis makes two important conceptual contributions to the growing field of critical adaptation studies: (1) It suggests that the increasing interconnectedness between people and places makes it impossible to know whether adaptation efforts undertaken have in reality reduced net vulnerability or simply shuffled vulnerability across the board. Ignoring the potential for such redistributive effects can have significant consequences in practice and will likely lead to unsustainable and, in the long run, maladaptive outcomes. (2) It argues that non-rational and affective dimensions are vital to the emergence of adaptation responses and that paying attention to them is important if critical scholarship is to understand and intervene in the persistence of techno-managerial approaches to adaptation. Furthermore, to the field of critical policy studies this thesis makes a methodological contribution by developing a new analytical framework for poststructuralist policy analysis.

Abstract [sv]

Vi ser allt starkare bevis på att de antropogena klimatförändringarna, trots internationella ansträngningar att begränsa utsläppen av växthusgaser, troligen kommer att överstiga tvågradersmålet. Detta kommer att leda till omfattande förändringar av vår livsmiljö, vilket i sin tur kommer att kräva betydande åtgärder för anpassning. Intresset för klimatanpassning har ökat på lokala, nationella och internationella politiska dagordningar, samtidigt som forskningen på området har intensifierats. Men trots att besluten om implementering av specifika åtgärder i grunden är politiska, har klimatanpassningen ofta betraktats som en ”problemfri” process, eller en ”tam” utmaning. Hittills har endast en relativt liten del av forskningen analyserat den pågående debatten om anpassningen, samt hur de dominerande diskurserna och de föreslagna lösningarna är sammanlänkade med frågor om makt och politik.

Den här avhandlingen sätter de socio-politiska dimensionerna av klimatanpassningen i fokus och undersöker empiriskt och teoretiskt hur själva fenomenet ”klimatanpassning” uppstår, tolkas och används som ett begrepp inom forskning, politik och praktik. Med avstamp i poststrukturalistisk diskursteori – och i synnerhet det så kallade logikperspektivet (även kallat Logics of Critical Explanation, eller the logics approach)– vidareutvecklas här ett analytiskt ramverk som syftar till att undersöka anpassningspolitiken på ett konsekvent och transparent sätt. Med utgångspunkt i empiriska analyser av officiella anpassningsdiskurser på internationell nivå, europeisk nivå (EU) och nationell nivå i Tyskland undersöks hur olika diskursiva logiker möjliggör eller begränsar förutsättningarna för politiskt handlande.

Avhandlingens bidrag är alltså såväl empiriska som begreppsliga och metodologiska. Empiriskt bidrar den med kritiska insikter och visar hur de vanligast förekommande samtida anpassningsdiskurserna innehåller viktiga avpolitiserande aspekter (till exempel genom att inkorporeras i en nyliberal marknadsdiskurs). Dess viktigaste teoretiska bidrag till det växande fältet av kritiska anpassningsstudier är för det första en diskussion om hur den ökande sammankopplingen mellan människor och platser gör det omöjligt att veta om arbetet för anpassning på specifika platser verkligen minskar den totala sårbarheten eller om det bara förflyttar sårbarheten någon annanstans. Att bortse från sådana omfördelningseffekter kan få betydande konsekvenser och kommer troligen att leda till ohållbara strategier – och därmed i längden till missanpassning snarare än anpassning. För det andra visar avhandlingen att icke-rationella och affektiva (känsloladdade) dimensioner är centrala i anpassningspolitiken och att det är viktigt att vara uppmärksam på dem för att förstå och förändra de nuvarande teknik- och managementorienterade anpassningsstrategierna. Avhandlingen bidrar även med metodologiska insikter till forskningsfältet ”kritiska policystudier” genom att utveckla ett nytt analytiskt ramverk för poststrukturalistisk policyanalys.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Huddinge: Södertörns högskola, 2019. , p. 189
Series
Södertörn Doctoral Dissertations, ISSN 1652-7399 ; 168
Keywords [en]
Climate change adaptation; Adaptation policy development; Politics of adaptation; Discourse; Poststructuralist Discourse Theory; Logics of Critical Explanation; Discourse Analysis; European Union; Germany; Qualitative policy analysis; Critical policy studies; Fantasy; Depoliticisation
National Category
Environmental Sciences Human Geography Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Research subject
Environmental Studies; Baltic and East European studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-39234ISBN: 978-91-88663-78-8 (print)ISBN: 978-91-88663-79-5 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:sh-39234DiVA, id: diva2:1366579
Public defence
2019-11-25, MA 624, Alfred Nobels allé 7, Huddinge, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-11-01 Created: 2019-10-29 Last updated: 2019-11-01Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Is adaptation reducing vulnerability or redistributing it?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Is adaptation reducing vulnerability or redistributing it?
2018 (English)In: Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, ISSN 1757-7780, E-ISSN 1757-7799, Vol. 9, no 1, article id e500Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

As globalization and other pressures intensify the economic, social and biophysical connections between people and places, it seems likely that adaptation responses intended to ameliorate the impacts of climate change might end up shifting risks and vulnerability between people and places. Building on earlier conceptual work in maladaptation and other literature, this article explores the extent to which concerns about vulnerability redistribution have influenced different realms of adaptation practice. The review leads us to conclude that the potential for adaptation to redistribute risk or vulnerability is being given only sparse—and typically superficial—attention by practitioners. Concerns about ‘maladaptation’, and occasionally vulnerability redistribution specifically, are mentioned on the margins but do not significantly influence the way adaptation choices are made or evaluated by policy makers, project planners or international funds. In research, the conceptual work on maladaptation is yet to translate into a significant body of empirical literature on the distributional impacts of real-world adaptation activities, which we argue calls into question our current knowledge base about adaptation. These gaps are troubling, because a process of cascading adaptation endeavors globally seems likely to eventually re-distribute risks or vulnerabilities to communities that are already marginalized and vulnerable. We conclude by discussing the implications that the potential for vulnerability redistribution might have for the governance of adaptation processes, and offer some reflections on how research might contribute to addressing gaps in knowledge and in practice.

National Category
Human Geography Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies) Social and Economic Geography
Research subject
Environmental Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-33637 (URN)10.1002/wcc.500 (DOI)000418557000008 ()2-s2.0-85032284826 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2017-10-26 Created: 2017-10-26 Last updated: 2019-10-29Bibliographically approved
2. Depoliticizing adaptation: a critical analysis of EU climate adaptation policy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Depoliticizing adaptation: a critical analysis of EU climate adaptation policy
2018 (English)In: Environmental Politics, ISSN 0964-4016, E-ISSN 1743-8934, Vol. 27, no 3, p. 477-497Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The ways in which climate adaptation is understood in the European Union is examined via three key policy documents: the Strategy on adaptation and the Green and White Papers that preceded it. Drawing on Poststructuralist Discourse Theory, light is shed on the implicit values and assumptions that underpin this recent policy initiative. The findings demonstrate a tension between the declared ambition to act on adaptation and implicit suggestions that nothing really has to change, and the challenge can be addressed by market and technological innovations, and by mainstreaming adaptation into existing sectoral policies. The policy discourse effectively serves to depoliticize choices societies make in response to climate change, presenting adaptation as a non-political issue. Insight into European adaptation discourse enables deeper understanding of recent policy developments and opens up possible entry points for critique.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis Group, 2018
Keywords
Climate change adaptation, European Union, Poststructuralist Discourse Theory, Logics of Critical Explanation, depoliticization, policy discourse
National Category
Political Science Human Geography
Research subject
Environmental Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-34443 (URN)10.1080/09644016.2018.1429207 (DOI)000427941200005 ()2-s2.0-85040980483 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2018-01-30 Created: 2018-01-30 Last updated: 2019-10-29Bibliographically approved
3. Logics, assumptions and genre chains: a framework for poststructuralist policy analysis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Logics, assumptions and genre chains: a framework for poststructuralist policy analysis
2017 (English)In: Critical Discourse Studies, ISSN 1740-5904, E-ISSN 1740-5912, Vol. 5, no 1, p. 1-18Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

An unresolved aspect of the Logics Approach within Poststructuralist Discourse Theory (PDT) is how to operationalize its abstract theoretical concepts – of social, political and fantasmatic logics – for concrete textual analysis, especially of policy documents. Policies often institute new understandings, procedures or practices, something the logics, as originally articulated, fall somewhat short of capturing. To overcome these methodological challenges this article constructs a framework for poststructuralist policy analysis that brings together the Logics Approach with more textually oriented tools developed within Critical Discourse Analysis, namely assumptions and genre chains. For empirical illustration it draws on a case study of the European Union's adaptation policy in response to climate change. The resulting framework offers a means through which more implicit social and political logics can be examined, and contributes new insights to methodological debates around the use of the Logics Approach (and PDT more broadly), specifically in relation to critical policy analysis. The article concludes with seven observations of relevance for future studies and suggests avenues for further empirical and conceptual exploration.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis Group, 2017
Keywords
Discursive policy analysis, policy discourse, poststructuralist discourse theory, logics of critical explanation, critical discourse analysis, discourse analysis methodology, climate change adaptation, European Union
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies) Human Geography Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Environmental Studies; Critical and Cultural Theory
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-33531 (URN)10.1080/17405904.2017.1382382 (DOI)000428760900002 ()2-s2.0-85030154368 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2017-10-03 Created: 2017-10-03 Last updated: 2019-10-29Bibliographically approved
4. The affective dimensions of climate adaptation: Fantasy and future-making in German adaptation policy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The affective dimensions of climate adaptation: Fantasy and future-making in German adaptation policy
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Environmental Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-39246 (URN)
Note

Som manuskript i avhandling. As manuscript in dissertation.

Available from: 2019-10-30 Created: 2019-10-30 Last updated: 2019-10-30Bibliographically approved

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