Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Pathway Politics: Geographies of power, practice and publics in the making of transitions

Session: RGS-IBG Conference, August 30th – September 2nd 2016, London.

Convenors: Harriet Bulkeley (Durham), James Evans, Mike Hodson (Manchester), Kes McCormick, Johannes Stripple (Lund).

Over the past decade the notion of transition has become ever-more integral to the pursuit of sustainability, particularly with respect to the challenge of decarbonising society. Policy makers, private sector bodies and non-governmental organisations increasingly advocate for the need for low carbon transitions, across a range of sectors from energy provision to mobility, food production to everyday spheres of consumption. Rooted in science and technology studies, transition studies has emerged as a vital field of academic inquiry, analysing the ways in which incumbent regimes remain ‘locked in’ to particular systems of provision and how systemic change emerges or could be nurtured through innovation and experimentation. While transition studies has opened up the question of how shifts in the socio-technical systems so vital to addressing sustainability take place, there has been a growing critique within and beyond this field that questions of the geographies and politics of transitions have yet to be adequately addressed. In this session, we propose to draw together some of these lines of critique to explore how we might understand the nature and dynamics of politics unfolding through the various strategies, models, interventions and experiments involved in the making of transitions. We welcome papers that address the broad theme of ‘pathway politics’ and which explore the geographies of power, practice and publics at work in the making of transitions. We will particularly seek to explore the following themes:
  • Conceptualising pathway politics: how useful are concepts of agency, authority, legitimacy, institutions, governmentality, assemblage for conceptualising the politics of transition?
  • Knowledge politics: how are pathways being envisaged through new forms of modelling, assessment, and knowledge production; how are transition politics reshaping the science/policy interface?
  • Political economies and political ecologies: to what extent do the politics of pathways reflect existing structural conditions and interests, or challenge them? Are new forms of political economy, or new political ecologies, being assembled through transition interventions? With what consequences for matters of social and environmental justice? 
  • Material politics: how and in what ways does the materiality of transition itself constitute a site of politics, and how in turn might a material political lens reconstitute our understanding of transition? 
  • Future politics: how, and with what consequences, are the politics of transition a politics of the future? How do the discourses, techniques and practices of transition lay claim to particular different futures, and to what extent are new agents of change engaged in shaping these futures? 
Paper abstracts (200 words max) should be submitted by Monday 15th February to the organisers: h.a.bulkeley@durham.ac.uk

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