seminar series

Social Life of Climate Change

Seminar Series

These research seminars are interdisciplinary discussions around contemporary debates in the humanistic social sciences of climate change and the environment. Events take multiple formats, including standard seminar format as well as more engaged discussions of relevant readings and works in progress. Most events take place at LSE on Mondays from 1pm-2:30pm. The seminars are open to all. 

The series is co-sponsored by the Department of Geography and Environment, the Department of Sociology, and the Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. It is organized by Dr Kasia Paprocki ( and Dr Austin Zeiderman ( of the Department of Geography and Environment and Dr Rebecca Elliott ( of the Department of Sociology. Contact them with any questions. Updates can be found here.

Michaelmas Term 2019

Gökçe Günel, Department of Anthropology, Rice University
21 October (6-7:30pm), NAB 1.04 

Book Launch: Spaceship in the Desert

In 2006 Abu Dhabi launched an ambitious project to construct the world’s first zero-carbon city: Masdar City. In/Spaceship in the Desert/Gökçe Günel examines the development and construction of Masdar City’s renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures, providing an illuminating portrait of an international group of engineers, designers, and students who attempted to build a post-oil future in Abu Dhabi. While many of Masdar’s initiatives—such as developing a new energy currency and a driverless rapid transit network—have stalled or not met expectations, Günel analyzes how these initiatives contributed to rendering the future a thinly disguised version of the fossil-fueled present./Spaceship in the Desert/tells the story of Masdar, at once a “utopia” sponsored by the Emirati government, and a well-resourced company involving different actors who participated in the project, each with their own agendas and desires.


Paige West, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University and Barnard College
4 November (1-2:30pm), Graham Wallas Room

A prayer for the world: Climate change, engaged scholarship and writing the future

Each new day, it seems, we wake to a barrage of terrible global news and horrifying images. This is particularly true with regard to climate news. It is enough to paralyze even the most empathetic and concerned citizens. In this lecture, drawing on her twenty three years of research in Papua New Guinea,  anthropologist Paige West asks us to consider what each of us can do as students, scholars, writers, and thinkers to understand the historical processes that set the conditions of possibility for our present world, to document or to witness the transformations of the present, and to use our scholars skills to work towards transforming the future.

Daniel Aldana Cohen, Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania
11 November (1-2:30pm). FAW 9.05

Follow the Carbon: Housing Movements and Carbon Emissions in the 21st Century City

In this talk, Cohen will make an empirical argument that ordinary people’s struggles to improve their quality of life can be a force for slashing greenhouse gas emissions, and a theoretical argument that a “collective consumption” perspective (borrowing from Manuel Castells) helps to clarify how this is so. The talk will draw on fieldwork conducted in São Paulo and New York on low-carbon policy and housing politics, which in New York is culminating in pioneering low-carbon legislation informally called “A Green Dew Deal for New York.” It will also sketch results on the emergence of state-wide “just transition” campaign waged from below in New York State. And it will present early carbon footprint data, showing early results of a new big data project on whole community climate-mapping, which will look at the intersections of inequalities, the built environment, and climate at the neighborhood level across the US. The talk will argue that private consumption of goods and services, far from exhausting a climate politics of consumption, should be theorized as part of a broader, collective struggle over the social organization of consumption in its broadest sense.

Andrew Curley, Department of Geography, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
2 December (1-2:30pm). Vera Antsey Room

What is a Resource Curse?: Energy, infrastructure, colonialism, and climate change in Native North America

Resources define much of the indigenous experiences today. In and around ‘Indian country,’ energy infrastructures connect indigenous spaces to systems of local and global energy consumption, from coal, to natural gas, to oil. The politics of climate change and energy transition threaten to shift energy production into tribal communities in ways that are new and not always desired. The presentation will highlight some important features of this colonial landscape, from the federal laws that govern indigenous communities to the shifting pressures of changing energy consumption in the US. In the process, the presentation will hold the idea of ‘resources’ in tribal communities into account and leave us with a consideration of how climate change and energy transition factor into longstanding colonial-capitalist practices in North America.