Climate change reception studies in anthropology

Sara de Wit*, Sophie Haines

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The past decade has seen increased anthropological attention to understandings of climate change not only as a biophysical phenomenon but also as a discourse that is traveling from international policy making platforms to the rest of the planet. The analysis of the uptake of climate change discourse falls under the emergent subfield of climate change reception studies. A few anthropological investigations identify themselves explicitly as reception studies; others only mention the term with little explanation. Our review discusses a fuller range of anthropological studies and ethnographies from related disciplines that treat climate change as a discursive reality, which is not independent from how it is intimated through close observations of the environment. The following themes emerged: language and expertise; place and vulnerability; modernity, morality and temporality; alterity and refusal. The review suggests that the interaction of observation and reception is still not well understood, and that there is scope for more systematic methodological and theoretical synthesis, taking lessons into account from geographies of reading and empirical hermeneutics. By exploring the hermeneutical problem of upholding scientific integrity while being open to other ways of knowing, climate change reception studies’ emancipatory potential lie in opening up knowledge spaces for multi-directional and democratic approaches to living (with) climate change. In closing, we propose an interdisciplinary research agenda highlighting the potential generativity of translation as an idiom for theory and praxis relating to how people come to know climate (change) – through both perceptual engagement with the natural world and interpretations of discursive manifestations.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere742
Number of pages21
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change
Early online date14 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • climate change discourse
  • reception studies
  • translation
  • power
  • knowledge encounters
  • anthropology
  • geographies of reception
  • empirical hermeneutics
  • climate change anthropology


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