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CLER/CGD Conversation: Language and Climate Change

Past Events
Thursday 10 March 2022, 2-4pm GMT

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Keynote speakers

Dr Rosalie Edmonds, UCLA (Department of Anthropology)

Language and Climate Justice: How Communication Shapes Environmental Conservation Work 

Across the world, the large-scale issues surrounding climate justice are negotiated in small-scale interactions, as actors from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds create and contest knowledge about environmental problems and their solutions. These conversations are frequently both transnational and multilingual, occurring in areas that are diverse both biologically and linguistically (Nettle 1998, Muehlmann 2015, Skutnabb-Kangas and Harmon 2017). In these contexts, choices and beliefs about language have the potential to magnify racialized and (neo)colonial hierarchies (Edmonds 2020, Pouchet 2020, West 2005). Drawing from fieldwork at a wildlife sanctuary in Cameroon, I demonstrate the ways in which language usage and beliefs about language affect animal keepers, NGO managers, and foreign volunteers as they work together to rehabilitate chimpanzees. Through this case study, I argue that sociolinguistics and related fields are uniquely situated to describe and analyze the power dynamics, conflicts, and miscommunication that occur in climate justice work, and to generate potential solutions.

Rosalie Edmonds received a PhD in Linguistic Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2019. Her research combines ethnographic, sociolinguistic, and conversation analytic methods to explore the role of language ideologies and linguistic diversity in climate justice work. Her dissertation, Language Ideologies, Conservation Ideologies: Communication and Collaboration at a Cameroonian Wildlife Sanctuary, examines the politics of multilingual communication as Cameroonian staff, French NGO workers, and foreign volunteers work together to rehabilitate chimpanzees. Her work has appeared most recently in The Journal of Sociolinguistics, Language & Communication, and Social Interaction, Video-Based Studies of Human Social Interaction. She currently lives in Wisconsin.

Dr Sandra Bhatasara, University of Zimbabwe

Beyond the ‘scientific logic’: Climate change adaptation, local knowledge and languages in Zimbabwe

Adaptation has gained prominence in global and local discourses around responding to the ongoing climate change crisis. However, it remains underlined by the notion that ‘scientific technical progress’ is the dominant way to overcome various challenges created by the climate crisis. This conservative modernization approach to development, shaped by colonial encounters continues to privilege ‘scientific practices’, concepts and language. In Zimbabwe this is evident in the deployment of dominant terminologies and technologies shaped by the assumed universalistic nature of climate change. In such landscapes, local ecological knowledge is overshadowed and externally constructed concepts superimposed (even though IKS is appreciated in global agreements and local policy pronouncements). Yet, in resisting both colonial penetrations, post-colonial interventions, neo-liberal global development approaches and climate change, local ecological knowledges, in their various forms, have remained part of everyday practices of local communities. What is needed is both re-thinking and reframing how adaptation is farmed and practiced putting local ecological knowledge at the core. In this regard, the role of local language is quite significant.

Sandra Bhatasara is a Lecturer in the Department of Governance and Public Management at the University of Zimbabwe. She has trained in sociology, anthropology and public policy.  She is interested in decolonial and intersectional approaches to gender, land and livelihoods, environmental and climate change adaptation studies.

Session Chairs:  Prof Maggie Kubanyiova, Centre for Language Education Research and Dr Lata Narayanaswamy, Centre for Global Development


Dr Harry Kuchah, Centre for Language Education Research - Harry Kuchah is Lecturer in Language Education at the University of Leeds, UK. His research interests are in language (in) education and teacher education in the Global South and he has served as a consultant on language policy and practice with the British Council, the Council of Europe and Windle Trust International.

Jekoniya Chitereka, Centre for Global Development - Jekoniya Chitereka is a doctoral researcher at the University of Leeds whose work focuses on  the relationship between science and development in Africa. His research is rooted on critically evaluating the extent to which big science projects enhance African scientific expertise and wider campaigns to ‘decolonise’ global knowledge production.

Prof Alice Deignan, Centre for Language Education Research - Alice Deignan is a text and corpus linguist at the University of Leeds, with interests in education, science communication and figurative language. She was PI on the AHRC funded project 'Translating Science for Young People'. The project investigated research and educational texts about climate change from different genres, and interviewed school students about their understandings of climate change.

Dr. Dorcas Kalele, University of Leeds and University of Nairobi GCRF Project Partner, has over ten years of implementing research in climate change adaptation, information in climate science, policies, institutions and investments in agriculture and rural development. Her research interest is in climate science communication, science-policy-practice interface, gender and social inclusion for climate change adaptation and sustainable food security.