Environment and Vulnerability

Chaired by Prof Anja Nygren (University of Helsinki; anja.nygren@helsinki.fi), PhD candidate Mira Käkönen (University of Helsinki) and Dr Anu Lounela (University of Helsinki). Commentator: Prof Jesse Ribot (University of Illinois)

Environmental disasters have become more frequent and devastating in the midst of global environmental change. While these adversities are often understood as natural disasters, they are never simply “natural” nor is people’s vulnerability to them. In recent years, there have been calls to approaches that carefully consider the socio-political dynamics at stake, with thorough examination of the everyday conditions of vulnerability, and the socio-political processes that produce and mediate them. This working group focuses on actors, institutions, and networks involved in the planning and implementation of environmental governance and vulnerability mitigation policies. We are interested in the various effects of these governance efforts and their links to socially differentiated vulnerabilization. We also welcome papers that analyse how people, albeit with differentiated access to power, remake their lives and livelihoods, recuperate from disasters and vulnerabilities, and contest the processes that put them increasingly at risk. Analyses of discourses and framings embedded in environmental governance, as well as of movements challenging the prevalent policies are equally welcome. The papers can be anchored to political ecology, anthropology of nature, or any other approach that takes seriously the power dynamics and the complex human-nature entanglements that shape peoples vulnerability to environmental change.

We thus invite presentations that examine some of the following topics:
– Shifting discourses of environmental governance in development policy and planning
– New forms of defining, assessing and governing environmental risks and vulnerabilities
– Roles and powers of actors, institutions and networks involved in environmental governance
– Effects of environmental governance on socio-spatial differentiation
– Experiences of environmental (in)justices and modes of contestation
– Ways of remaking lives amidst environmental changes and disasters