Appel à contributions: Adaptation to Environmental Change: Anthropology’s Engagement


The 112th AAA Annual meeting will be held at the Chicago Hilton November 20-24, 2013 in Chicago IL. The 2013 annual meeting theme is Future Publics, Current Engagements.

Workshop proposal: Much attention has been given to the ways in which individuals, communities, and governments try to mitigate the impacts of environmental change, particularly climate and land use change (Mertz et al. 2001).  Given the inevitability of some degree of change, attention is also now being directed toward how human communities are adapting and can adapt to these types of environmental changes (e.g. Agrawal 2010; Nelson, West, and Finan 2009).  Understanding these emerging adaptation practices is critical to our future ability to react to and buffer these changes.

Anthropologists are well-positioned to investigate and analyze adaptation processes, and this session seeks to highlight not only various adaptation strategies, but also the role of the anthropologist in facilitating, documenting, and disseminating these strategies.  We seek to build on the work compiled in the edited volume Anthropology and Climate Change (Crate and Nuttall 2009), enlarging the scope to other forms of environmental change and directing special attention to scalar interactions and the ethics of engagement.

For example, documented adaptations to climatic changes expected to raise sea levels and increase storm surge include constructing homes on raised platforms.  An individual may decide to elevate his or her home, or a government may declare that any homes on parcels that have been flooded by storm surge must be raised.  At yet another level, the national flood insurance program could provide incentives, in the form of lower premiums, for homeowners who elevate their structures.  This one example shows how processes of adaptation can be multi-scalar and invites inquiry into how decisions and initiatives at various levels may intersect and support or impeded efforts at other levels. At the same time, it highlights how poor and marginalized members of the community may be “left behind” in adaptation strategies and provides an interesting platform for discussing the role of the anthropologist in studying, influencing, or implementing adaptation strategies or policies.

We seek papers for this panel that will engage the diverse ways in which humans adapt to environmental change.  Adaptations can be at the individual level, at the level of communities or institutions, or can be larger in scale.  Papers are particularly welcome that are multi-scalar in their inquiry (spatially or temporally), that meaningfully engage in collaborative knowledge production, or that treat the ethical implications of anthropological work on adaptation to environmental change.  We also welcome papers that critically reflect on the process of public engagement in the area of environmental change.


Abstracts should be sent to the Organizer and Chair by April 2nd.


Agrawal A. 2010. Local Institutions and Adaptation to Climate Change.  Pps 173-198 in. Mearns, R. and Norton, A. (eds) Social Dimensions of Climate Change: Equity and vulnerability in a warming world. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.

Crate, S. and M. Nuttall (eds.) 2009. Anthropology and Climate Change: From encounters to actions.  Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.

Mertz, B. et al. (eds.) 2001.  Climate Change 2001: Mitigation.  Contribution of Working Group III to the third assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Nelson, D., C. West, and T. Finan. 2009. Introduction to “In Focus: Global change and adaptation in local places.” American Anthropologist.  111(3): 271-274.


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