Embodied knowledge, national politics, and global environmental imaginaries

Contemporary political, popular, and scientific narratives are haunted by crisis: existential risks of food and water insecurity, systemic economic instability, and climate change. From the perspective of organizations for global governance, such “grand challenges” demand that scientific research and technology development be set free to produce “solutions.” Agendas for research and innovation aimed at addressing globally imagined risks (Miller, 2015), whether or not they ultimately deliver on their promise, necessarily impose logics and frameworks for resource allocation and rule-making in the here and now. Broadly speaking, these are sites at which universal technoscientific and governing agendas are coproduced (Jasanoff, 2004).

Despite the widely shared sense of urgency for significant change in the ways that human beings understand and form part of the natural environment, the appropriate scale and tools for such an imagined transformation remain contested. Projects of global scientific knowledge production and intervention are presented in visions of climate change remediation, energy transitions and bioeconomic reconfiguration as the only hope for an ailing and over-burdened planet, while coming up against anti-globalist political uprisings, food sovereignty movements, localist rejection of large-scale top-down energy systems, and consumer opposition to genetic engineering. Given the widely acknowledged high stakes, advocates of global environmental governance often frame dissent as regressive and anti-scientific (e.g., Juma, 2016; Specter, 2009), and call into question the capacity of democracy to meet the challenge of averting crisis (e.g., Beeson, 2010). Thus, advocates for transforming human-environment relationships through science and innovation tend to position scientific and technical expertise not only as a source of know-how, but as an agent of governance: authorized to declare how technological innovation and economic reform should together re-order human-environment relationships in the name of security; social, political and economic stability; and human wellbeing.

This session seeks contributions that examine sites where particular forms of knowledge and expertise are called upon and challenged in efforts to transform the relationship between human beings and the global environment.  Further, we seek to explore the politics whereby particular groups at different scales of knowledge and governance are authorized to envision and pursue new modes of human-environmental relations through creating and capitalizing knowledge and artifacts. We hope to build understandings of the ways that political questions about agendas to reform the human-environment relationship are asked and answered, at what scale, and how credibility for such projects of (re)imagination is produced.

Please submit a presentation proposal, including a title and abstract of no more than 300 words, to the session organizers: Tess Doezema (tess.doezema@asu.edu) and Carlo Altamirano (Carlo.Altamirano@asu.edu) no later than December 28th, 2018.




Beeson, M. (2010). The coming of environmental authoritarianism. Environmental Politics, 19(2), 276–294. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644010903576918

Jasanoff, S. (Ed.). (2004). States of knowledge: the co-production of science and social order. London ; New York: Routledge.

Juma, C. (2016). Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies. Oxford University Press.

Miller, C. (2015). Globalizing Security: Science and the Transformation of Contemporary Political Imagination. (Jasanoff, Sheila & S.-H. Kim, Eds.).

Specter, M. (2009). Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives. Penguin Press.


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