Climate Change Nationalisms: Biopolitics and Political Ecologies

AAG Conference 2018, New Orleans, April 10-14

Call for Papers


Session organizers: Lauren Rickards (RMIT University, Melbourne) and Gregory Simon (University of Colorado Denver)

Discussant: Kevin Grove (Florida International University, Miami)

Sponsored by CAPE-AAG: the Cultural and Political Ecology specialty group of the American Association of Geographers

Abstracts due Oct 15th.


Generally gathered under the concepts of resilience, adaptation, mitigation and carbon sequestration, biopolitical state responses to climate change are folding into broader efforts to govern and rearticulate national territories, populations and human and more-than-human bodies (Grove 2014). The influence of nationalistic imaginaries, ideals and agendas includes but is far from limited to ‘carbon nationalism’ (cf Bettini et al. 2016) and nation state geopolitics. Yet the influence of diverse nationalistic formulations on climate change responses and vice versa has been largely overlooked in the framing of climate change as a global or local issue.

In this session our aim is to explore the two-way relationship between climate change and nationalist sensibilities and tendencies. On the one hand we are interested in how problem and solution frames structured around the themes of impacts, vulnerability, adaptation, resilience, mitigation and carbon sequestration (Smit and Wandel 2006) are being (re)formulated in ways that reflect and advance nationalist cultures, subjectivities and sensibilities as part of a broader biopolitics of climate change (Taylor 2014). On the other hand, we are interested in how nationalist affects and nation-building agendas are being reworked in light of climate change, associated disasters and responses to them.

Examples of paper topics include:

·       Research illustrating how nationalist imaginaries and nation-building efforts are being invoked and reworked in representations of certain climate change impacts and ideal or actual responses (e.g. Mercer et al. 2014)

·       Examples describing how climate discourse and action is being leveraged, instrumentalized and weaponized to further particular (eco-)nationalist and nativist ideologies and policies

·       Exploration of how representations of resilience and adaptive capacity are drawing upon indigenous subjectivities (e.g. Lindroth and Sinevaara-Niskanen 2016)

·       Examination of how the idea of ‘migration as adaptation’ (Bettini et al. 2016) is amplifying and attenuating nationalist performances

·       Studies showing how labels of climate change vulnerability and associated responses are being integrated within attempts to regulate, alienate, or “other” certain social groups (eg. Turhan et al. 2015)

·       Descriptions of how climate change-based reassessments of land is intersecting  with concerns about, strategic representations of and performances of national territory (e.g. McCarthy and Thatcher 2017)

·       Cases illustrating how climate change discourse is being folded into diverse national-scale policy arenas, including (critical) infrastructure development, economic productivity and national security (e.g. Turhan 2016)

·       Instances where the remaking of natures under climate change is reshaping and being shaped by specific nationalistic ideas about nature(s) and climates (e.g. Rickards 2016, Rickards et al. 2017)

·       Exploration of how climate change is encouraging inter-national comparisons based on certain forms of environmental determinism, Darwinism and teleological imaginaries

·       Reflections on how climate change is undermining or altering the notion of nationalism in general, such as the interplay between nations and globalized climate change policy responses (e.g. Weisser et al. 2014) and the adaptation of politics itself (Wainwright and Mann 2015).

Please send an abstract of approx. 200 words to Lauren Rickards,( and Gregory Simon ( by October 15th. We will get back to you as promptly as possible to allow formal submission to the AAG conference website.


Bettini, G., S. L. Nash and G. Gioli (2016). "One step forward, two steps back? The fading contours of (in)justice in competing discourses on climate migration." The Geographical Journal, Online first

Grove, K. (2014). "Biopolitics and Adaptation: Governing Socio‐Ecological Contingency Through Climate Change and Disaster Studies." Geography Compass 8(3): 198-210.

Lindroth, M. and H. Sinevaara-Niskanen (2016). "The biopolitics of resilient indigeneity and the radical gamble of resistance." Resilience 4(2): 130-145.

McCarthy, J. and J. Thatcher (2017) "Visualizing new political ecologies: A critical data studies analysis of the World Bank’s renewable energy resource mapping initiative." Geoforum, Online first

Mercer, J., I. Kelman, F. do Rosario, A. de Deus de Jesus Lima, A. da Silva, A. M. Beloff and A. McClean (2014). "Nation‐building policies in Timor‐Leste: disaster risk reduction, including climate change adaptation." Disasters 38(4): 690-718.

Rickards, L. (2016). "Goodbye Gondwana? Questioning disaster triage and fire resilience in Australia." Australian Geographer 47(2): 127-137.

Rickards, L., T. Neale and M. Kearnes "Australia's national climate: learning to adapt?" Geographical Research, Online first

Smit B, Wandel J. Adaptation, adaptive capacity, and vulnerability. Global Environmental

Change 2006, 16:282-292.

Turhan, E., C. Zografos and G. Kallis (2015). "Adaptation as biopolitics: Why state policies in Turkey do not reduce the vulnerability of seasonal agricultural workers to climate change." Global Environmental Change 31(Supplement C): 296-306.

Turhan, E. (2016). "Value-based adaptation to climate change and divergent developmentalisms in Turkish agriculture." Ecological Economics 121: 140-148.

Wainwright, J. and G. Mann (2015). "Climate Change and the Adaptation of the Political." Annals of the Association of American Geographers 105(2): 313-321.

Weisser, F., M. Bollig, M. Doevenspeck and D. Müller-Mahn (2014). "Translating the ‘adaptation to climate change’ paradigm: the politics of a travelling idea in Africa." The Geographical Journal 180(2): 111-119.



Dr Lauren Rickards

Senior Lecturer, Sustainability & Urban Planning
Co-leader, Climate Change & Resilience Research Prog., Centre for Urban Research
Leader, RMIT Regional Futures Network,
RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
Co-Convenor, Hazards, Risk and Disasters Study Group, Institute of Australian Geographers
Steering Committee Member, AusMob Research Network,
Book Review Editor, Dialogues in Human Geography,

ph. 0427 679 043