What questions or frustrations does this text leave you with?



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June 6, 2021


The text left me with a question that I actually often find frustrating in the process of research. On page 6, the authors take up the criticism of a Fukushima resident who says: “[W]hat you call research does not give benefits to local people” (Miyamoto and Ankei, 2008, cited in Ankei, 2013, p.24). The authors here suggest adopting or borrowing terms from the field that are used by citizens to create a more “socially robust science” (Bonhoure et al. 2019, Nowotny, 2003). From the authors' point of view, this can be achieved above all by paying closer and careful attention to the language of citizen organizations and the contexts these groups work in. After further elaboration, the authors call for citizen science terms and concepts developed by, for and with citizens to better reflect the values, priorities, and stakes of its main agents and of all concerned parties. But I am not sure that this approach alone would be sufficient to adequately address such expressed criticism. Perhaps one should ask about the expectations of people one is researching with/about in order to enter into a conversation and to be able to understand this criticism. Perhaps the authors will address this point again in further publications. I think to ask oneself how to deal with this criticism methodically and ethically could also be very fruitful for empirical research in general.

Vera Laub's picture
May 19, 2021

In the text, the 2015 White paper of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports Science and Technology (MEXT) is quoted as: "When it comes to the creation of innovation that changes society, ‘citizen science’ (shimin kagaku), which embrace ideas from daily life, is important, because the possibility that innovation is created, increases as new venues where experts and citizens collaborate, are developed. Moreover, the knowledge, skills and desires that citizens possess, sometimes surpass that of the expert. If we can bring this knowledge to an efficient use as ‘the wisdom of crowds’ under the banner of open science, then around the year 2030 we can increase the amount and the quality of innovation activities in technology and science, including research activities, even if the number of scholars in our country will decrease.”

The authors state that this notion were to introduces “citizen science” within the globally expanding science and policy fields of open science and open innovation and further that by this MEXT was targeting an increased contribution of citizens to benefit formally institutional science rather than being concerned with the question of how science can contribute to society. I tend to agree with the latter, but am left with the question how the underlying narratives are constructed when talking about creation of innovation, increasing new venues, and bringing knowledge to an efficient use under the banner of open science? These terms seem to be very much informed by neoliberal thought, but social relations do not seem to be an analytical framework the authors are working with.

Tim Schütz's picture
May 19, 2021

The article is great at highlighting the multple efforts and projects lurking behind the label "citizen science" in Japan. Paying attention to the various terms and histories, especially their implications for citizenship and activism are really important. I guess the focus on language, reports and self-definitons of different actvists left me wanting to hear more about what all the different practices look and feel like. I assume this gets more attention in the ethnographic write-ups of the project. 

May 15, 2020

(1) I am mostly frustrated by Spivak's, and even the collective's exclusion of Dalit thought and literature. I think that the argument of: “There simply are no subaltern testimonials, memoirs, diaries, or official histories”: is both incorrect and dangerous. Both Spivak and the Subaltern Studies overdetermine the influence of bourgeois nationalism and of figures like Gandhi, who were mainstream but not necessarily radical or even the most popular. In the Spivak reader, for example, there is no mention of Ambedkar's work, who as a Buddhist Dalit scholar and the architect of the constitution of the Indian nation-state, is a subaltern figure who spoke and wrote fiercely against both colonialism and the caste system. There is now the field of Dalit Studies which writes against the grain of this exclusion. The book Decolonizing Anarchism offers an anti-authoritarian narrative of decolonization, offering accounts of social movements and anti-colonial thought that advocated for complete liberation from the British empire, a goal later appropriated by mainstream liberal politics. 

(2) I wonder how to perform a comparison of recuperative scholarship like that of the Subaltern Studies collective with that of Black Radical Tradition? Is it possible to read Cedric Robinson's Black Marxism in conjunction with Ranajit Guha's Peasant Insurgency? What differences exist between articulating a shared subalternity and global Blackness? 

(3) What kinds of pedagogy does Spivak point us to? 

Nadine Tanio's picture
May 1, 2020
In response to:

While I found the article illuminating (I did not read the book), I am frustrated by, what I found, to be the hegemonic visions of political theory and climate change. Is there no space for feminist epistemological stances when imagining future forms of governance? Even their presentation of Climate X--what seemed to me like a quest for a unifying theory of opposition that is neither realistic nor reflects the how resistence movements however stuttering they may be are also a source of possibility and hope.

Lucy Pei's picture
May 1, 2020
In response to:

I wonder about global corporations and how they might relate to the described US-UN-Western-Elite Climate Leviathan verus Behemoth on the Capitalist side. They already operate beyond nation-state territorial scope. Just from where I'm situated, I've heard a lot of people praising tech companies in the US for being the first to call for work-from-home. Facebook's Data for Good COVID mapping that Tim sent around also looks like a start of a global panopticon that already has the capacity to be monitoring a huge number of people's travel and symptoms, beyond state divisions, in fact explicitly in part because Facebook does not trust state data, and it does not need buy-in at a UN kind of event. People are already consenting in degrees to have Facebook "collect" and aggregate their data for the fun, validation, convenience, etc. of being on social media. As the Western Elite governments go to Behemoth, are the corporations of those elite places the ones to carry on the idea of Leviathan? 

This article also brought to mind a haunting story that I first heard from a fancy robotics professor of a "Noah's Ark" for Elon Musk. I haven't quite figured out how that fits yet with the chart of possibilites offered in the article.

I second Prerna's frustration about citation and writing like one is the first person to think of something. 

April 30, 2020
In response to:

I admire Mann and Wainwright for taking on the impossible task of coming up with a political theory for climate justice. Their strength lies in how they inadvertently reveal the stubbornness of Leviathan, or liberal democracy. But I must question when abstractions turn into reifications. Like any political theory, it would of course rouse passions and frustrations, so here are mine.

(1)  The political theory of the state that Mann and Wainwright build on follows the tradition(s) of Hobbes, Hegel, Marx, and Walter Benjamin. If we are to limit ourselves in these traditions, there is a still a lot of space to talk about them that Mann and Wainwright keep open. I am intrigued by the phrases "a world without sovereignty is no world at all", and "democracy undoes the very possibility of rule", which reveal how stubborn our political imaginations are. In the construction of these phrases, a world without sovereignty and democracy is not recognizably a world. I think they are quite right here. I hope to explore in my own project the tensions they point out, that this moment reinforces in such a monstrous way: "Leviathan, whether in the Old Testament or in even oldermyths, was never a captive of its conjurer’s will, and remains at large today, prowling between nature and the supernatural, sovereign and subject." (1)

(2) The most obvious critique I have is their lack of imagination for where learning can come from. Their four climate scenarios assume a bipolar world of Asia and United States. Take for example, this quote: "In contrast to sub-Saharan Africa or Latin America, for example, only in Asia—and only with some revolutionary leadership from China—do we find the combination of factors that make climate Mao realizable: massive and marginalized peasantries and proletariats, historical experience and ideology, existing state capacity, and skyrocketing carbon emissions." (10)

The phrase in contrast leaves Africa and Latin America as places without coordinational capacity. We have to remember that the Haitian Revolution  happened in the Caribbean in 1791, a successful proleteriat revolution against a colonial state which had degraded both ecology and humanity. Admittedly the challenges are different in scale and scope today, but we have to be careful about the biases we reveal when we abstract. 

(3) So, where can learning come from? As I write in my annotation on the T-STS COVID project: "The question of political organizing and mobilizing in times of crisis therefore needs to build on movements and organizing that have resulted out of long histories of exclusion. How does movement-building look like to those who have learned to organize in a state that was to them mostly oppressive and withdrawn? Corinna Mullin and Azadeh Shahshahani (2020) reflect on what a transnational perspective on movement-building and organizing looks like. Their excellent article points to early Black radical internationalism and organizations, indigenous internationalism, the international peasant and ecological movement of Via Campesina, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Black for Palestine and The Red Nation movements, for example. In short, we have much to learn from responses by ongoing anti-imperialist movements during COVID-19 which have called for cancellation of neocolonial debt, land repatriation, reconfiguration of gig and hustle economies, just to give a few examples." Where else can we find examples to build on?

(4) So, the world that I live in is not polar, nor is it confined to territorial nation-states. Does it still make sense to speak of the US as representative of liberal democracy? And does liberal democracy mean rule without terror? Mann and Wainwright contrast "Euro-American liberal hegemony" to the "necessity of a just terror" that climate Mao asserts (9). Further, they distinguish the mechanisms of "neoliberal contagion" from global climate change, as if the two operate on separate floating spheres (3). However, as Inderpal Grewal argues in Saving the Security State (2017) and Jasbir Puar argues in The Right to Maim (2017), the security state cannot be separated from the transnational parastatal humanitarian complex that has emerged to address global climate change, among other things. These parastatal organizations work within the contradictions of neoliberalism: benefiting from withdrawing of the state and the increased capacity of the state to surveil (as the COVID19 pandemic sadly shows too) and make citizens which see themselves as exceptional liberals if they participate in that complex. They maintain the US empire and benefit from it. Is there space to talk about present-day imperial projects in political theory about climate activism?

(5) I wished they would have cited and learned from other people who have been saying these things for a long time. Is my wish for them to "talk about everything"? No, my wish for them is to stop speaking as if they are the first ones to speak about this. A footnote would have sufficed. And that is my frustration. 

Tim Schütz's picture
April 30, 2020

Knowing that their comments on "Climate X" are kept open by choice, the book left me wanting to read more detailed accounts, e.g. of indigenous resistance, Zapatista movement, etc., that they touch on only very briefly.

A minor thing: painting with broad brushstroke ("relatively poor and powerless people as well as the other living things with whom we share this planet" 2018, 7) seemed appropriate for the (broad) scenarios they are sketching out, but also feels simplified and begging for more detail.