Cause and Blame in the Anthropocene: Sociodicy under a Changing Sky
This address explores three building blocks of my current reflections on nature and human wellbeing. First, I critique flat or object-oriented ontologies, which sideline humanism via distributive agency. Second, I examine the notion of humanism as a potential basis of ethical response to ecological crises. Third, I explore framings of causality – through the causes of climate-related hunger, famine and dislocation – so as to better understand how we attribute blame and responsibility for disaster. This last segment examines the necessity for a sociodicy of the anthropocene – an analytic in which all cause of human pain and suffering is framed as social.
Dissonant sustainabilities? Politicising antagonisms in the conservation-development nexus
Reflecting on more than twenty years engagement with the idea that development and economic growth are essential for ensuring environmental conservation and sustainability, a key experience for me has been that of dissonance. In this talk I draw on the concept of ‘dissonance’ as explored some decades ago by psychologist Leon Festinger in A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (1957). I focus in particular on how the coherence of sustainability discourse is managed precisely by managing, and often excluding, contradictory information, however robustly argued and evidenced that information might be. My intention is to highlight ways in which this management of dissonance is also ideological in nature, with implications for understanding the antagonisms with which sustainability discourse is infused.
Land politics, agrarian movements and scholar-activism
The keynote will examine the recent changes in global land/resource politics and agrarian movements and the activists and academics that mobilize around and study these issues. The talk will put forward a number of propositions for critical reflection and discussion, namely: (1) Land/resource politics today are more diverse than at other points during the past century; (2) The changing character of land/resource politics has shaped the broadening social justice movements that mobilize around land/resource issues; (3) The changes in land/resource politics and agrarian movements have ushered in a new period and inspired a new generation of agrarian scholar-activists. By scholar-activism, I mean, rigorous academic work that aims to change the world, or committed activist work that is informed by rigorous academic research, which is explicitly and unapologetically connected to political projects or social justice movements. The changes on the agrarian front have also altered the character and reshaped the agenda of scholar-activism, as well as the style, methods, strategy and tactics of work. I conclude by putting forward a proposition for discussion around the idea of an ‘agrarian scholar-activist research movement.’