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 2018

Dr Malini Ranganathan (American University, School of International Service)

Two events:

8 October 2018, 1-2:30pm, Tower 2, room TW2 9.05
"From Urban Resilience to Abolitionist Climate Justice in Washington, DC"

Paper discussion: in this seminar we will discuss a piece of work in progress that Dr Ranganathan has shared. This paper will be the focus of an organized discussion by faculty and students in attendance. Please RSVP to to receive a copy of the paper in advance.

What do abolitionist sensibilities mean for climate justice? “Resilience” is proposed by experts as a solution for vulnerability to climate change in cities. But this prescription places the burden of “bouncing back” at local scales, subtly validating the processes of racial capitalism that endanger residents in the first place. This research focuses on areas vulnerable to extreme weather events and targeted for resilience enhancements in Washington, DC. After critically reviewing central debates surrounding resilience thinking and applications in DC and drawing from critical race and feminist theories, we argue for an explicitly anti-racist conceptualization of climate justice. This research uses a neighborhood-level survey, archival analysis, oral histories, and interviews to argue that abolitionist climate justice entails the appreciation of historical racism and its afterlives; an understanding of the intersectional drivers of precarity; and the centering of everyday solidarities and the ethics of care of those deemed most at risk to climate change, even if these do not articulate within a liberal environmentalist framework. 

9 October 2018, 4:30pm-6pm, Clement House, room CLM 3.04
“Unauthorized Urbanism: Liberal Property-Making and the Coloniality of Rule”

Why does a city known for its technology-led modernism, its cosmopolitan ethos, and its governance “best practices” continue to be rife with illicit real estate and an uneven political ecology of water and flooding? Drawing on ethnographic and archival research in Bangalore, India, this talk argues that this paradox is rooted in liberal and colonial projects of property-making and the cultivation of proper legal subjects. Well-serviced, formal residential settlement was carved up largely for the economic and cultural elite, a category that shifted according to state priorities from the colonial to neoliberal periods. For the lower middle class and poor, unauthorized urbanism took root as the operating logic that enabled residential settlement. Through this logic, various state forms produce and penalize “unauthorized” urban development in the interest of capitalist accumulation. Today, this logic of unauthorized urbanism is increasingly catering to the global elite at the expense of the lower classes and castes in what can be understood as a new phase of coloniality. The talk discusses emergent activism that entangles anti-corruption with anti-land grabbing, anti-caste, and ecological concerns. It ends by reflecting more broadly on how globally-indexed state restructuring articulates with historical arrangements of class, property, and difference.

Professor Elizabeth Shove (Lancaster University, Department of Sociology)

12 November 2018, 1-2:30pm, Tower 2, room TW2 9.05
“DEMAND: Exploring the dynamics of energy, mobility and demand”

This presentation takes stock of some of the ideas and arguments developed in the DEMAND Centre (Dynamics of Energy, Mobility and Demand) over the last five years. Research in the DEMAND centre was informed by the core idea that people do not use energy for its own sake but as part of accomplishing social practices at home, at work and in moving around. In this talk I reflect on the experience of developing and promoting such an agenda, and on some of the challenges involved.

Dr Megan Black (LSE, Department of International History)

3 December 2018, 1-2:30pm, 32 Lincoln's Inn Fields, 32L.B.07
“Divided Legacies of the Landsat Satellite: The Origins of a Climate Science Tool in American Mineral Exploits, 1965-1980”

This paper will examine the origins of the Landsat satellite, an earth resource satellite known today for tracking patterns related to climate change, in U.S. mineral pursuits of the late Cold War. In the mid-1960s and during the height of the Space Race, U.S. officials began imagining satellites that could illuminate previously untapped minerals around the world. Landsat was the result. Beginning in the 1970s, it helped some of the world's largest multinational companies extract oil and other minerals  in ways that undercut ongoing conservationist efforts in Third World nations in particular. Throughout, however, the satellites' promoters consistently touted its environmental benefits. What were some of the impacts of the interwoven desires to use a satellite to simultaneously promote American and private interests in extraction and protect the environment on a planetary scale?