Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Anthropology and Environment Society
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges
Primary Theme: Climate Change
Secondary Theme: Class
We present papers that, to paraphrase Geertz, share the natives’ points of view—the natives who reject the labels of the science class. This panel opens dialogue on ethnographic research of “climate change deniers;” seeks to problematize class roots and hidden injuries of belief and creed; and reassesses anthropology’s role in recognizing “deniers” as populations worthy of study.
Anthropology has underappreciated its ability to analyze cases in which scientific epistemologies are deliberately rejected or denied. In neglecting to understand those who profess not to agree with science, anthropology has neglected its role in understanding the production of “climate change denial” and in explaining the phenomenon to a broader public. Much of the discourse concerning “climate change denial” has focused public attention on lack of access to science education. While acknowledging this as a contributing factor, this panel seeks to move beyond explanations that portray “deniers” as simple, backward, or ignorant folk.
What does it mean to reject scientific orthodoxy or, alternatively, to claim it as a professed belief? Likewise, how are various economic interests connected to professed beliefs that may touch ontological and even religious veins? How are past anthropological concepts such as “traditional ecological knowledge” (TEK) squared with beliefs of groups anthropology has not typically conceptualized as indigenous? What connection do current “deniers” have to histories of anti-intellectualism, and why are they characterized by denial, rather than skepticism, contrarianism, or anti-intellectualism? Instead of single-pronged explanations, we might problematize our understanding of “deniers” as populations who embody overlapping articulations of identities, all of which have bearing on the expression of their creeds and logics.
The panel offers five papers on populations grappling with climate variability and creeds situated in local and regional hierarchies. Jessica Love-Nichols looks at the privileging of embodied and participatory epistemologies among sportsmen in southwestern Colorado. Jonna Yarrington examines the social positions of residents of Tangier Island, who profess to deny sea-level rise while their homes sink into the Chesapeake Bay. Mark Anthony Arceño contributes with the case of climate variability in the development of taste and terroir in the relatively young wine industry of Ohio. David McConnell explores the institutional structures and multiple social identities that coalesce to promote climate change denial among the Amish. Mike Stanton describes findings from research in Oklahoma on resistance against the binary of climate change believers and “others.” The session concludes with discussant remarks by Fred Damon.