At the 10th Annual IAS-STS Conference Critical Issues in Science and Technology Studies (May 2-3, 2011 at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society - Graz, Austria) we have brought together several researchers to discuss the study of situated practices of managing environments: For that we have designed a session in which Ingmar Lippert, Silvia Bruzzone, Franz Krause, Anna Schreuer and Gerald Aiken contributed analytically and empirically to the topic.
Member of this research group, Ingmar Lippert of the University of Augsburg presented a critical reading of the papers developed by the EMS Research Group1 and reflected about possibilities to draw together the limits to environmental management2. This paper used the work by Donna Haraway3 and Annemarie Mol4 to reconsider the performativity of doing environmental management and concluded with a number of questions to be addressed when aiming to scrutinise empirically the realities of managing environments5.
Silvia Bruzzone of the Centre Universitaire de Recherches sur l’Action Publique et le Politique, Epistémologie et Sciences Sociales of the University de Picardie Jules Verne invited the participants to reconsider how the notion of climate change may reconfigure the relations between a number of entities, such as trees, farms, farmers, documents and various other interest groups. Her case study revolved around the water retreat Kruibeke-Basel-Ruppelmonde which was transformed into a Flood Controlled Area. This area was to perform safety, sustainability as well as economic effects. Interestingly, she observed using Actor-network theory, opposition to another mode of management was effectively silenced by recruiting the opposing actants. In effect, we learned, narratives of safety (protection against climate change) or conservation are not given top-down to practical engagement with an area but are constructed in the process of managing.
Our member, Franz Krause of the University of Gloucestershire, presented via audio-link a paper on multiple dimensions at which flood control happened at the Kemi River in Finland. He contrasted rationality of the environmental management take of a municipality with the take of local citizens. Both groups of actors related to the idea of "development" with respect to their river. While one side understood development to be the solution to problems caused by the river, the other side showed how development was the cause of the problem crystallising in floods of the river. He related this analysis to the concept of heterogeneous engineering by John Law6 and Lucy Suchman's emphasis that engineering environments requires the alignment of entities as diverse as concrete, steel, texts and people7.
Anna Schreuer, who joined our group in 2010, presented reflections about environmental citizenship emerged in a project by the Inter-University Research Centre for Technology, Work and Culture on individual and institutional resources for enacting sustainable energy. Anna's presentation made explicit how a best practice case study could be used to study the translation of global into local discourses as well as how actors translated local practices into global discourses. Agents of environmental change were positioning themselves at the centre of the globe, construing both effects in which they influenced outsides as well as in which they experienced outside effects on the centre.
Gerald Aiken of the University of Durham provided a conceptual paper on the differences between several notions of "community". For that he investigated several academic discourses which figured "community" as a kind of manager in competing ways. The paper showed the respective limits of these notions, emphasising their limits e.g. in accounting for geographical space, non-humans or spirituality. When these concepts were applied within environmental management occasions the choice of the notion changed the entities which were grouped into a community.
The discussion following these presentations centred around the understanding that and how environmental management is a practice whereas not only one single-best form of management should be assumed to exist. Rather, discussants argued, multiple versions of managing in a specific situation can co-exist and/or compete.
For analysis, the description of these versions of practicing environmental management turns into a prime task. We need to ask how multiple versions are considered competently performed - a thought compatible with ethnomethodological considerations. We may assume that different audiences consider competing versions of environmental management competent.
Next year, end of May till June 2012, we will continue our engagement with the topic in a workshop entitled "How do you manage? Unravelling the situated practice of environmental management".
- 1. Implementing Environmental and Resource Management In Implementing Environmental and Resource Management, Edited by M. Schmidt, V. Onyango and D. Palekhov. Heidelberg: Springer, 2011.
- 2. Limits to Managing the Environment In Implementing Environmental and Resource Management, Edited by M. Schmidt, V. Onyango and D. Palekhov. Heidelberg: Springer, 2011.
- 3. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women. London: Free Association Books, 1991.
- 4. The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice In The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice. Durham, N. Ca., and London: Duke University Press, 2002.
- 5. "Dimensions of Limits to Environmental Management: Reﬂections Drawing on Recent Scholarship in the Field of Science and Technology Studies." In 10th Annual IAS-STS Conference on Critical Issues in Science and Technology Studies. Graz: 03/05/2011, 2011.
- 6. Notes on the Theory of the Actor Network: Ordering, Strategy and Heterogeneity. online retrieved 2006, Nov. 02, 1992.
- 7. "Organizing Alignment: A Case of Bridge-building." Organization 7 (2000): 311-327.