From impacts to embodied experiences: Tracing political ecology in climate change research

Petra Tschakert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Political ecology has long moved on from its initial skepticism of big science engagements and cursory critiques of simplistic vulnerability approaches. Its core strengths lie in understanding the contestation of inequalities, marginalization, and injustices in access to and control over resources, neoliberal politics of environmental change, and dominant environmental narratives, while incorporating new insights from development ethics, feminist social theory, and resilience thinking. Today's theoretical lenses allow for an understanding of causal relations in climate debates that exceed narrowly defined impact studies. I focus on four areas that exemplify shifts in engagement with adaptation, stretch themes of inquiry, and delineate zones for analysis and action: (1) reconnecting scale: multiscalar interactions, scalar dimensions of practice, and traversing scales from embodied experiences to the global intimate; (2) destabilizing gender: from gendered vulnerability and adaptive capacity to fragmented identities and intersectionality; (3) repositioning persistent inequalities: from rights to responsibilities, mutual fragility, and human security; and (4) reframing certainty: from climate proofing to limits, traps, and transformative change. Methodologically, I advocate for opening space for collective and anticipatory learning, creative envisioning, rehearsing for reality, and dynamic planning in the context of multiple and synergistic stressors, all powerful countervoices to hegemonic integrated modeling and numeric vulnerability indices. © 2012 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-158
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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