CfP POLLEN20 – Creating carbon knowledges: conceptualising carbon ‘on the ground’

Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN 20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organisers

If you would like to contribute please send a title and abstract to Rebecca Kent at by November 19, 2019.

 Session description

This session seeks to examine how carbon knowledge is absorbed, accepted, rejected, interpreted or assimilated in communities subject to carbon offset projects.

The extension of carbon knowledge in the context of REDD+ or other VCM projects can be considered to represent a process of privileging neoliberal, scientific perspectives to the exclusion of other ways of knowing and being. Within an environmental justice framing this can be conceived as ‘malrecognition’ (Martin, 2017:17). In the context of carbon offset projects, the potential for engagement practices to alter perceptions and re-order cultural and socio-economic relationships to forests and land means that the risk of malrecognition is acute (Boer 2019).

However, in contrast to the extensive literature on the creation of carbon discourse at the international policy level, there has been relatively limited investigation of the processes of knowledge creation around carbon ‘on the ground’ and hence a gap in knowledge of how carbon meanings are reproduced and reinterpreted locally (Twyman, Smith, & Arnall, 2015).  This ‘local messiness’ appears largely invisible to the global gaze of new environmental governance regimes (Asiyanbi 2015). Nonetheless, the bridging of local and global understandings of carbon presents a significant challenge to the incorporation of land-based carbon projects into local settings, and reduces the opportunities for carbon projects to reflect local ecologies, values and needs (Leach & Scoones, 2015).

In this session we invite empirical or theoretical papers from a range of disciplinary perspectives that examine the creation of carbon knowledges. This might include local people’s experiences of information sharing in carbon offset projects; how are messages received and interpreted? What scope exists for scientific understandings of carbon to be accommodated within local belief systems, world views or religions? Is there a case for ‘knowledge diversity’ (Green 2008) in climate change communication in carbon projects?


Asiyanbi, A.P. (2015) Mind the gap: global truths, local complexities in emergent green initiatives. In R.L. Bryant (Ed.), The International Handbook of Political Ecology, (pp. 274-287) Edward Elgar, Cheltenham.

Boer, H. (2019). Deliberative engagement and REDD+ in Indonesia. Geoforum 104, 170-180.

Green, L. J. (2008). ‘Indigenous knowledge’ and ‘science’: Reframing the debate on knowledge diversity. Archaeologies, 4(1), 144-163.

Leach, M., & Scoones, I. (2015). Political ecologies of carbon in Africa. In Leach, M., & Scoones, I. (Eds.), Carbon Conflicts and Forest Landscapes in Africa (pp. 21-62). London: Routledge.

Martin, A. (2017). Just conservation: Biodiversity, wellbeing and sustainability. Routledge.

Twyman, C., Smith, T. A., & Arnall, A. (2015). What is carbon? Conceptualising carbon and capabilities in the context of community sequestration projects in the global South. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 6(6), 627-641.

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