Panel 15

Problematising and re-politicising the categories of ‘institutional’ environmentalism: the contribution of anthropologists.

Cecilia Paradiso, Umberto Cao

Venerdì 17 dicembre 2021
  Facoltà di lettere e filosofia
Aula VII & Aula I

Ecological transition and energy transition are among the most recent expressions of an ever-present concern in global politics and economics: the environment. Since the second half of the 20th century, and with a rapid increase in the last thirty years, environmental concerns have driven the establishment of governmental and non-governmental institutions and programmes (Macekura 2015) aimed to assess and control human impacts on the ecosystem. A broad range of concepts from different disciplinary fields have been developed to support these goals. Some of them have been risen to paradigms, although their definitions have often been vague and their applications controversial. Nevertheless, several of them have oriented policies and actions to produce alternative models of development, rethink and innovate human approaches to the environment, and raise awareness among political, economic and social actors. We refer to concepts such as sustainability, resilience, biodiversity, ecological compensation, ecosystem services or transitions. But while the effects of climate change make clear the need for a change from the current fossil-fuel-based energy power regime (Boyer 2014) to regimes that are more “eco-friendly” and less anthropocentric, the content and goals of such a transition seem to suffer from an ethnocentric approach coming from the power centres of the “global North”. Furthermore, if sustainability discourses have become hegemonic in environmental policies, its notions have often been re-appropriated at the local level and mobilised in support of very different demands. This panel is especially open to contributions based on applied anthropological approaches, which reflects on how the theoretical and operational instruments of “institutional” environmentalism (see the recent Next Generation EU) are perceived, discussed, adopted, re-signified and reused in the micro level of territories and communities, and across civil society. We invite to explore practices, strategies, tensions, resistances, and mobilisations, as well as the symbolic, decisional, creative, and productive processes that unfold locally around these issues. We therefore question how the heuristic potential of anthropological perspectives can problematize and re-politicize visions, categories, and policies regarding the environment. We expect that the different contributions will open a reflection on the (potential and actual) role(s) that applied anthropological approaches could play within such processes (Haenn & Casagrande 2007), and in particular, on how anthropological analyses are able to reveal the complexities of socio-ecological realities.

KEYWORDS: environmentalisms, energetic transitions, sustainability; Energopower; Territories. 

Boyer D. 2014, «Energopower: An Introduction», Anthropological Quarterly, 87(2), pp. 309-333.
Haenn N., Casagrande D.G. 2007, «Citizens, Experts, and Anthropologists: Finding Paths in Environmental Policy»,Human Organization, vol. 66, n. 2, pp. 99-102. Igoe J., Neves K., Brockington D. 2010, «A spectacular Eco-Tour around Historic Bloc: Theorising the Convergence of Biodiversity Conservation and Capitalist Expansion», Antipode, vol. 42. n. 3., pp. 486-511. Macekura S.J. 2015, Of Limits and Growth. The Rise of Global Sustainable Development in the Twentieth Century, New York, Cambridge University Press.

Cecilia Paradiso PhD in social Sciences at EHESS/Centre Norbert Elias in Marseille. Works mainly on environmental policies, focusing especially on national parks and management of mediterranean coastal environments. Dr. Paradiso is writing a Thesis on the coastal erosional phenomena at La Maddalena national park.

Umberto Cao postdoctoral researcher of CNRS, at UMR TREE – Transitions Energétiques et Environnementales, in Pau. Has been working on indigenous peoples of America for ten years, and he’s now focusing on social movements and the implications of energy production, management and access, with a deep sight on the “World’s South”.

Cecilia Paradiso, ceciparadiso[at] Umberto Cao, ucao[at]