“The Politics of Personhood in Climate Change Litigation”
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Noah Walker-Crawford, PhD candidate in Social Anthropology, University of Manchester.
Co-sponsored by the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University.
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Sheila Jasanoff, Faculty Associate. Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School.
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Please note: This event requires registration by noon on Friday, October 16 to receive the meeting link and password.
In a ground-breaking legal claim, a Peruvian farmer is seeking to hold a German energy company liable for climate change impacts. The lawsuit makes climate change personal by shifting the political focus from global dynamics to direct relations between natural and corporate persons. Ethnographically tracing the claimant’s journey from the Peruvian Andes to the German courts, this research shows how the restrictive legal framework excluded other nonhuman persons such as Andean earth beings that provided motivation for the claim. But despite their formal invisibility, the invocation of earthbeings provided public justification for a legal claim that garnered international media attention. Both within and beyond formal legal frameworks, nonhuman ecosystem persons can play a role in political discussions about climate change. Building on work in anthropology and socio-legal studies, this research argues that an attention to the politics of personhood in contemporary environmental disputes can highlight the socio-material relations at stake, opening discussions about new forms of political engagement.
Noah Walker-Crawford is a PhD Candidate in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, UK, and was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Program on Science, Technology and Society in the spring 2020 term. His work traces the production of knowledge in social claims about climate change and responsibility. Using an ethnographic approach, he is following a precedent-setting lawsuit for climate justice brought by a Peruvian farmer against a German energy company.