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18 April 2010

Future Research Interests

Broadly speaking, I'm interested in what Elinor Ostrom calls polycentric approaches to environmental issues. Actually, "flat ontological" might be a better description, but it doesn't have the same ring. By this I mean that I'm interested in the entanglements of politics, state agencies, economics, local communities, local knowledge, the sciences, social movements, and the non-human world. I'm interested in how heterogeneous actors come together into constellations of enactment.

This broad research interest leads me to several sub-interests:
1) Post-constructivism - theoretically and methodologically, I believe that the approaches fitting into this (very broad) category are the best for studying the topics that interest me. They allow us to understand the relationships between the human and non-human world, and dissolve the boundaries that have traditionally hampered Western science (nature/culture, mind/body, human/animal)
2) Social Movements - Understanding how social movements converge, what drives them, and what potentials and limitations they have in addressing environmental issues. Also, how they interact with one another, with the media, with policy makers and with scientists.
3) Policy networks - Understanding how public policy with regard to the environment is shaped through political processes and bureaucratic networks, and how these processes interact with social movements, communities, the media and sciences.
4) Mediascapes - Looking at the media, how it represents environmental issues, and how those representations shape and are shaped by social movements, policy networks, and the sciences.
5) Science and Technology Studies - Understanding how environmental knowledge is constructed, and how that knowledge and scientists themselves interact with social movements, policy networks, and the media.
6) Environmental controversies - Everything works great until things break down (a tautology if ever I saw one!). I'm interested in situations where the relationships between the non-human world, and all of the above actors fall apart. It's in these moments (ever more abundant) where I see enormous potential. Understanding how these issues can be negotiated in a fair, ethical and sustainable way is key to building a better future.

In terms of specific projects, I have several in mind. First of all, I'd like to investigate ethnographically what people are doing at multiple scales to either mitigate or adapt to climate change. I want to know if people are really so opposed to doing something about it, and what steps they're willing to take. I also want to know if national legislation or international agreement is the only/best way of addressing climate change - I want to see what works and what doesn't at a variety of scales.
I'd love to trace policy networks and bureaucracies with regard to environmental issues. How are environmental regulations initiated? What processes do they go through and how are they altered by those processes? How is environmentalism enacted among policy makers and bureaucrats?
Finally, I would like to work with an environmental social movement or a local community as they negotiate environmental issues. I would like to look at relations between them and scientists, policy makers, and the media to better understand how environmental issues are constructed and what can be done to create a better outcome for everyone involved.

Maybe this is a little much for someone who is only 1 year into a Master's degree, but I've never been one to focus my interests narrowly. I don't expect to utilize or pursue all of them all at once, but I hope I'll be able to explore the majority of my interests in an environment that is supportive and provides a high degree of intellectual stimulation.

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