Envisioning strategies for sustainable development and its governance are knowledge-intensive processes. Against this background, conflicts about the correct form and actual validity of knowledge supporting sustainable development have arisen. What can be seen as evident-and what not? This article is based on the argument that there are differing modes creating evidence within “epistemic“ and “practice“ communities. Therefore, I propose to decipher knowledge production for sustainable development as processes of social experimentation in Dewey's sense. To do so, I introduce the concept of a “formative public“ for analyzing the cultural and institutional contexts of such processes. The argument is underlined by a focused description of the cases of chemical regulations and climate change politics. The findings support the argument that the politics of sustainable development has to elaborate guidelines and institutional structures for processing knowledge as a social experiment in order to resolve the conflicting ideas mirrored through differing accounts of the evidence.
A Framework for Ethnographic Research on the Perceptions of Climate Change
Sophie Elixhauser, Stefan Böschen, and Katrin Vogel
Ethnographers studying the local dimensions of climate change find themselves confronted with a methodological problem: climate change is both an abstract concept and a locally present phenomenon, yet it does not emerge from lived experience. We tackle this problem by means of a research framework that combines discussions on place and Tim Ingold’s (2011) idea of a meshwork. This article is based on research on climate change perceptions in two Alpine communities, located in Bavaria (Germany) and South Tyrol (Italy), respectively. We show how a focus on climate knots and their meshworks allows the grasping, describing, and visualizing of the different dimensions of climate change in these two local settings. This framework, as we further show, helps to reveal social and cultural patterns and underlying structures.
Stefan Böschen, Jochen Gläser, Martin Meister, and Cornelius Schubert
Recent years have seen an increasing interest in materiality in social research. Some might say that materiality is now back on the agenda of social research. The challenges of bringing materiality back have spurred lively debates about material agency, most of which, however, are leveled at the largely dematerialized theories of the social in the social sciences, for example, in material culture studies (Appadurai 1986; Miller 1998) as well as science and technology studies (Latour 1988; Law/Mol 1995). Since the turn of the century, a marked shift towards the material has emerged (cf. Hicks 2010), ranging from questions concerning nature (Grundmann/Stehr 2000) and everyday objects (Molotch 2003; Costall/Dreier 2006; Miller 2010) to issues of cultural theory (Reckwitz 2002), post-phenomenology (Verbeek 2005), ethnography (Henare et al. 2007), distributed cognition (Hutchins 1995), and materiality in general (Dant 2005; Miller 2005; Knappett/Malafouris 2008). A perspective on materiality is now being developed in diverse fields such as archaeology (Meskell 2005), economic sociology (Pinch/Swedberg 2008), political science (Bennett 2010; Coole/Frost 2010), and organization studies (Carlile et al. 2013). Yet the status of the material remains debated in the evolving fields of various “new” materialisms (cf. Lemke 2015).