Risk in a Changing World


14 Nov. 2014: Prakash Kashwan – “Dismantling Causal Structures of Vulnerability: A Political Project”

1 May, 2015: Michael Watts – “Spaces of Insurgency” Rescheduled 13 Nov. 2015

7 May. 2015: Timothy Forsyth – “Livelihoods and Vulnerability Under Climate Change”

8 May. 2015: Diana Liverman – “Rethinking Climate Vulnerability”




Prakash Kashwan

University of Connecticut, Storrs

Dismantling Causal Structures of Vulnerability: A Political Project

3:00-5:00 14 November 2014

Beckman Institute - Tower Room 2269

Vulnerability to climate change is, in part, an outcome of political and economic struggles for control over natural resources. That being the case, international aid meant for addressing vulnerability may further exacerbate such struggles, and by implication, make the most vulnerable groups even more vulnerable. This talk examines the conditions under which pro-poor policy outcomes are secured amidst historically entrenched and widespread power asymmetries. To this end, it examines and explains the cross-sectional and over-time variation in effective realization of land rights in forested regions of India and Mexico. By bringing to center stage the political drivers of ‘accountability politics’, the speaker argues for political and policy reforms that are geared to navigate the complexities of the actually existing politics of vulnerability and empowerment.

The Discussant for this talk is Dr. Paolo Gardoni (Civil and Environmental Engineering, UIUC).

Prakash Kashwan is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut. His research focuses on political economy, comparative and international environmental policies and politics, and the politics of international development. His ongoing research includes projects on comparative analysis of institutional change over time in forest property rights regimes, national policy outcomes related to international carbon forestry, and the politics of land acquisitions. Much of Dr. Kashwan's past research pertains to field sites in India, but increasingly his work explicitly focuses on comparative analyses of outcomes in multiple countries in the global South.


Michael Watts  

Department of Geography, University of California at Berkeley

Spaces of Insurgency

3:00-5:00 13 November 2015

Lincoln Hall - Room 1092 (702 S. Wright Street)

This talk will examine the rise of two insurgencies in contemporary Nigeria, on their face of very different character. One - Boko Haram - is a neo-Salafist Islamist movement associated with the northern savanna and draped in the language of Calpihal restoration and True Islam; the other - the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) - a secular movement arising on the oilfields and in the creeks of the forested Niger delta speaking the language of self determination, resource control and constitutional reform. Drawing upon the ideas of Henri Lefebvre among others, this talk shall attempt to argue for their 'family resemblances' rooted in the relations between petro-capitalism, spatial fragmentation and the exclusion of youth from multiple forms of authority. Each must be grounded too in regionally and culturally specific forms of state-building, warfare and local history which gives to each insurgency a specific coloration and inflection.

Professor Michael J. Watts is Professor of Geography and Development Studies and Chair of the Department of Geography at University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1979. Professor Watts is a leading figure in human geography, particularly political ecology. Although strongly identified with a Marxist tradition and with political economy, his work since the 1970s has extended from the human ecology of agrarian societies in Africa to the theorization of culture and difference, and the reasons behind the prosecution of war under contemporary capitalism.



Timothy Forsyth

Professor of Environment and Development, London School of Economics

Livelihoods and Vulnerability Under Climate Change

5:00-6:30 7 May 2015

Beckman Institute Room 1005

Social scientists are increasingly calling for the analysis of adaptation to consider factors other than greenhouse gas forcing. But theories about vulnerability and livelihoods still lag behind climate change debates. This talk will attempt to reconcile these two fields by considering the historical ways in which research into livelihoods have considered questions of vulnerability, and prospects for updating these approaches in the face of new climate risks. The paper will argue that Sustainable Livelihoods Approaches (SLAs) – despite reflecting the neoliberal principles of the late 1990s – offered an important insight into vulnerability by being outcome oriented – ie defining sustainability in terms of outcomes useful to vulnerable people rather than in terms of response to specific environmental changes alone. Since the 1990s, however, livelihoods research has engaged more thoroughly with the national and discursive contexts within which livelihoods and risks are defined. This transition offers a template for new climate-resilient livelihoods in creating space for redefining the risks, and hence the responses, experienced by vulnerable people. The talk will provide examples of these more deliberative approaches to sustainable livelihoods from cases of ecosystem-based adaptation, and the proposed Landscapes Approach, which seeks to integrate development and environmental planning for multiple land uses.

Timothy Forsyth is Professor of Environment and Development at the London School of Economics. He is a specialist on the politics of environment and development, with a focus on understanding contested science and risk within environmental governance. His work analyses two themes: the politics and policy processes of contested environmental debates in rapidly developing countries; and the evolution of new multi-actor, multi-level forums of governance such as cross-sector partnerships or deliberative forums. He has written on climate change governance; forest polities in Asia; and social movements and local governance.



Diana Liverman

Regents Professor of Geography and Co-Director of the Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona

Rethinking Climate Vulnerability

3:30-5:00 8 May 2015

Beckman Institute Room 1005


This talk will discuss some of the key challenges in studying climate vulnerability, drawing on recent work in the southwest US, Mexico and the Caribbean. These challenges include the need to study sectors beyond agriculture and natural resources – especially manufacturing and services; the importance of understanding the vulnerability of labor and workers; the difficulty of analyzing local vulnerability in a globally connected economy; and the necessity of better research designs including comparative and longitudinal studies. And as the UN is declaring success in terms of the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty between 1990 and 2015, we should consider our use of poverty as a measure of vulnerability and whether success in meeting the MDGs has translated into reductions in vulnerability.

Diana Liverman is Regents Professor of Geography and Development and Co-Director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona. Her research centers on climate impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, and climate policy and mitigation especially in the developing world. She also works on the political economy and political ecology of environmental management in the Americas, particularly in Mexico.


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