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Call for participants | Euroseas laboratory: The Citizenship of Climate Change Adaptation in Southeast Asia

15/05/2017 @ 08:00 - 17:00

The European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (Euroseas) will hold its next international conference at University of Oxford, 16-18 August 2017

A Laboratory: The Citizenship of Climate Change Adaptation in Southeast Asia
Convenor of this laboratory: Gerry van Klinken: [email protected]

Have 20th century Southeast Asian citizens protested after weather-related disasters? Did their protests shape adaptive responses when such disasters return? How can an understanding of past extreme weather-related politics inform today’s climate change adaptation politics?

Climate change adaptation studies are becoming more important as mitigation measures lag behind what is necessary to limit major impacts. More extreme weather plus incremental temperature and sealevel changes threaten to undo decades of developmental progress. Without effective adaptation measures, climate change exacerbates human security problems such as inequality and political instability.

This half-day, interdisciplinary laboratory aims to generate new research ideas to understand better how and why SEA’s vulnerability to weather-related disasters is changing. It will focus on disasters – floods, landslides, typhoons, droughts, forest fires, heatwaves – rather than long-term incremental change. These have a greater impact on policy priorities than slow sealevel or temperature changes. Most citizens still do not connect extreme weather events with climate change, but they sense that vulnerability is a human construct.

Vulnerability has 3 components: (a) exposure (the weather), (b) sensitivity (impact), and (c) adaptive capacity (politics). The study of these three belongs to different disciplines. Climate change vulnerability studies are therefore by nature interdisciplinary.

This laboratory will bring together young researchers in the areas of: (a) climate science, (b) environmental sociology/ political anthropology of weather-related disasters in SEA, and (c) 20th C Southeast Asian history and anthropology.

For this predominantly social science-oriented Euroseas conference, the focus will be on explaining variation in the political response to weather-related disasters. Adaptation is a highly political process. Climate change impact in SEA is high, while state capacities are medium (Yusuf and Francisco 2009). This might mean that weather-related politics fall in between the politics of ‘resilience’ expected in wealthy high-capacity states and those of ‘transformation’ (or political breakdown and violence) in fragile low-capacity states. The risk that governments and corporations adopt maladaptive solutions is high, as is the likelihood that citizens protest and demand a new social pact to protect them.

A preliminary way to explore past weather-related politics is through historical databases. The organisers will bring to the table several datasets covering the twentieth century and related to the 3 components of vulnerability. They could include data about: (a) global weather (CRU TS3), (b) disasters (EMDAT) and population density (HYDE), and (c) various factors related to adaptive capacity. The latter could include political regimes (VDEM, Polity IV), citizen surveys (ASEP/JDS), human development data (UNDP 1980-2015), and electronic newspaper archives (New York Times).

The laboratory will experiment with this data. Participants do not need special computer skills! Just bring your laptop with wifi.

The idea is to develop fruitful questions/ hypotheses for future research, on the basis of connections between the three components. These questions might then lead to more focused case studies in the future.

The basic questions will be: How does extreme weather affect citizen action in SEA? How can research scenarios of impacts inform politics?

Examples of further questions could be:

  • Why does the same weather produce disaster in one place and time but not another? (Population density, economy, regime type?)
  • Why do some disasters produce a lot of public discourse (and presumably political action), and others almost none? (Disaster frequency and location, disaster impact, regime type, cascade effects?)
  • Where, when and why do some disasters produce ‘resilient’ public responses (within the status quo), and others lead to ‘transformative’ politics (demanding a new social contract, and/ or leading to a security crisis)? (Pelling 2011) (similarly Albala-Bertrand (1993), Drury and Olson (1998))
  • When and why do some disasters lead to market-oriented discourse, and others produce demands on the state? (Forest fires = corporate responsibility; typhoons = state relief? State-oriented early in 20th C, market-oriented late 20th C?)

Are you interested? Contact Gerry van Klinken ([email protected]). Deadline: 15 May 2017.

Participants are expected to fund their own way (http://euroseas.org/). (Early-bird registration for this laboratory has been extended to end March 2017).


“[T]here is now little to no chance of maintaining the global mean surface temperature at or below 2◦C. Moreover, the impacts associated with 2◦C have been revised upwards, sufficiently so that 2◦C now more appropriately represents the threshold between ‘dangerous’ and ‘extremely dangerous’ climate change. Ultimately, the science of climate change allied with the emission scenarios … suggests a radically different framing of the mitigation and adaptation challenge from that accompanying many other analyses, particularly those directly informing policy” (Anderson and Bows 2011).

“[D]isaster lays bare the real political relations in a state” Olson (2000).

“The government response to the floods has in fact contributed towards a fundamental shift in state–citizen relations. This underdeveloped and still emerging ‘disaster citizenship’ in Pakistan is based on entitlements and rights rather than a citizenship more commonly understood to be based on identity, kinship or patronage” (Siddiqi 2013).

“[V]ictimhood is the moral content of how citizens engage with the state after a disaster” (Chhotray 2014).

“[T]he Anthropocene thesis might be viewed as the positing of a `disaster to end all disasters’….. However, … the idea of the Anthropocene might also be taken as a prompt to consider the very limits of the political, and the challenge of dealing with forces that exceed the effective scope or reach of any polity” (Clark 2014).

“When climate change is associated with extreme events, then it is the potential for disaster to destroy place as well as social life that opens scope for new understandings of identity and social organisation and an alternative to established structures in the social contract” (Pelling 2011).

EuroSEAS Laboratories

Laboratories are closed meetings for young scholars to develop innovative cross-disciplinary plans. Laboratories run for half a day and consist of a convener and max 8 participants. Towards the end of the conference conveners will present the results of these meetings to a larger audience.

Submission format: (1) title, (2) convener, (3) explain in ½ page plans for discussion and collaboration, (4) max 8 participants.


Albala-Bertrand, J. M. (1993) Political economy of large natural disasters: with special reference to developing countries, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Anderson, K. and Bows, A. (2011) ‘Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 369: 20-44.

Chhotray, V. (2014) ‘Disaster relief and the Indian state: lessons for just citizenship’, Geoforum, 54: 217-25.

Clark, N. (2014) ‘Geo-politics and the disaster of the Anthropocene’, The Sociological Review, 19-37.

Drury, A. C. and Olson, R. S. (1998) ‘Disasters and political unrest: an empirical investigation’, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 6: 153–61.

Olson, R. S. (2000) ‘Toward a politics of disaster losses, values, agendas, and blame’, International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, 18: 265-87.

Pelling, M. (2011) Adaptation to climate change: from resilience to transformation, Routledge.

Siddiqi, A. (2013) ‘The emerging social contract: state–citizen interaction after the floods of 2010 and 2011 in Southern Sindh, Pakistan’, IDS Bulletin, 44: 94-102.

Yusuf, A. A. and Francisco, H. A. (2009) ‘Climate change vulnerability mapping for Southeast Asia’, Singapore: Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia (EEPS


08:00 - 17:00
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