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  • 2018gallophd

    Rights statement: This thesis has not been submitted in support of an application for another degree at this or any other university. It is the result of my own work and includes nothing that is the outcome of work done in collaboration except where specifically indicated. Many of the ideas in this thesis were the product of discussion with my supervisors Dr Saskia Vermeylen and Dr Giovanni Bettini.

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Between Kasache and Geneva: The multi-sited voyage of climate-resilient development in Malawi.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2018
Number of pages308
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


How are global discourses on climate change negotiated in national policy contexts, and how do they materialise ‘on the ground’, shaping adaptation at a local level? This is the overarching question that this dissertation addresses, as it traces the evolution of climate policy in Malawi since the establishment of an international framework for climate-resilient development in the late 1990s. Drawing on a theoretical framework that combines approaches from Science and Technology, Postcolonial, and Feminist Science Studies, this work spans across international, national and local spaces of knowledge and policy production, revealing the material and often unintended consequences of global scientific constructions of climate change. Fieldwork in Malawi, including interviews with policymakers in Lilongwe and climate-affected communities in Kasache, has revealed tensions at various stages and scales, examined here through a multi-sited ethnographic approach that situates local weather and climate practices in the lineage of colonial and postcolonial narratives and relations. The findings indicate that the discourse on climate change is a mobile, power-laden and socio-cultural practice transversally connecting spatial (international, national, local), historical (colonialism, neoliberalism) and epistemological (élite/subaltern, gender) localities. The exclusion of locally produced knowledge and meanings (by decision makers, farmers, women and elders) from national mainstream adaptation programmes obscures how vulnerability is locally produced, foreclosing opportunities for context-relevant decision-making. While formally increasing women’s participation in local decisional structures, gender and climate change interventions disregard the presence of biophysical and socio-economic factors, including ‘global’ essentialising narratives, which can exacerbate unequal power relations. At the same time, women in Kasache have engaged in collective responses outside international frames of gender empowerment through informal networks that build on historical matrilineal solidarity and democratic participatory practices. Several ‘policy recommendations’ on how to decolonise and democratise climate adaptation interventions can be drawn from the findings of this work. In a nutshell, interventions should be based on the identification of underlying causes of vulnerability and adaptation strategies across societal groups (rather than on homogenous conceptualisations of climate risk exposure) and should
acknowledge and address the forms of marginalisation and human agency produced by the discourse of climate-resilient development.