RGS-IBG 2024 Panel

De- or re-colonising climate adaptation?

Indigenous and local knowledge in the climate adaptation machine 

Our project team is chairing an exciting panel at RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2024 London, August 27-30. Come join the discussion if you are in London! (full details in RGS-IBG detailed programme here)

» Thilo van der Haegen (University of Hamburg)
What is Indigenous Knowledge in Contemporary Settler-Colonial Capitalism? The Case of Indigenous Real-Estate Development in Today’s Vancouver

» Ankita Shrestha (University of Oslo)Giovanna Gioli (Bath Spa University)
On the Agency of Indigenous Objects

» Giovanna Gioli (Bath Spa University), Giovanni Bettini (Lancaster University)
Integration through datafication: A global mapping of  local and indigenous knowledges in climate services and climate smart interventions 

» Vidya Pancholi (Lancaster University)
Digital climate adaptations: enabling participatory adaptation, or paving the way to digital colonialism? Insights from a case study on Bihar, India

Session convenors:  Giovanna Gioli; Giovanni Bettini; Vidya Pancholi; Sian Sullivan 

Panel Description

(link to call for paper PDF VERSION)

However, under the weight of the epistemology structuring the production of knowledge on climate change and the related hegemony of the climate services paradigm, other forms of knowledge are routinely reduced to sources of data to be used, in isolation from the contexts in which they were produced, to fill gaps in scientific frameworks and models (Klenk et al 2017), or as repositories of replicable and scalable “solutions”(Petzold et al 2020; Latulippe and Klenk 2020).   

We acknowledge the work of those analysing how/why indigeneity has been reduced to instrumental imaginaries of perseverance and resilience (Chandler & Reid 2020). The climate reductionism (Hulme 2011; Chakraborty & Sherpa 2021) informing frameworks and institutions operating within contemporary global adaptation regimes (Paprocki 2022) operate through the detachment of virtuous local practices and indigenous knowledge from situated struggles, power dynamics and from indigenous resistance. The shadow of climate reductionism hides the existence of conflicting interests and worldviews at multiple scales, obliterating non-compatible but situated forms of governance, values and laws, and visons of the future.  

If the clash of epistemologies and the power relationships entailed in the hierarchy through which climate change knowledge is reproduced are not carefully scrutinised and acknowledged, then the climate adaptation machine becomes an enabler of novel forms of knowledge extractivism and is connivant with the hijacking and depoliticization of struggles that are then reabsorbed into global racial capitalism. For instance, seed sovereignty struggles risk being hijacked the poverty/adaptation finance machine – e.g. with the adoption of specific seed included as condition for accessing a premium in weather index insurance schemes issued global reinsurers and development agencies. In many cases in which ILK are intertwined with ‘smart’ approaches (Taylor & Bhasme 2020), the assumed “neutrality” of digital technologies (from mobile phones to satellites) further reinforces these processes and plays a central role in facilitating the collection, integration and use/exploitation of local/indigenous knowledge.   

In this session, we welcome papers and reflections which might speak to themes and concepts such as ( no means limited to):  

  • Integration of knowledge systems in climate adaptation: problems, failures, ideas  
  • Data colonialism, Indigenous data sovereignty and Indigenous data governance protocols  
  • Intellectual property rights for IKL  
  • Datafication and Financialization of IKL   
  • Co-production of knowledge and consultative processes, including new methodological approaches    
  • Forms of resistance against hegemonic ‘climate adaptation regime’  


Chandler, D & Reid, J. (2020): Becoming Indigenous: the ‘speculative turn’ in anthropology and the (re)colonisation of indigeneity, Postcolonial Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13688790.2020.1745993 

Chakraborty, R., and P.Y. Sherpa (2021) From climate adaptation to climate justice: critical reflections on the IPCC and Himalayan climate knowledges. Climatic Change 167: 49.  https://doi.org/ 10.1007/s10584-021-03158-1. 

Hulme, M. (2011) Reducing the Future to Climate: A Story of Climate Determinism and Reductionism. Osiris 26, 245–266. 

Latulippe, N., and N. Klenk (2020) Making room and moving over: knowledge co-production, Indigenous knowledge sovereignty and the politics of global environmental change decision making. 

Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 42: 7–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2019.10.010

Klenk, N., A. Fiume, K. Meehan, and C. Gibbes (2017)Local knowledge in climate adaptation research: moving knowledge frameworks from extraction to co-production. Wires Climate Change 8: e475. https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.475

Petzold, J., N. Andrews, J.D. Ford, C. Hedemann, and J.C. Postigo(2020) Indigenous knowledge on climate change adaptation: a global evidence map of academic literature. Environmental Research Letters 15: 113007. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/abb330

Orlove et al (2023) Placing diverse knowledge systems at the core of transformative climate research, AmbioDOI: 10.1007/s13280-023-01857-w 

Paprocki, K. (2022): Anticipatory ruination, The Journal of Peasant Studies, DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2022.2113068 

Taylor, M., & Bhasme, S. (2020). Between deficit rains and surplus populations: The political ecology of a climate-resilient village in South India. Geoforum. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2020.01.007 

Latulippe, N., and N. Klenk(2020)Making room and moving over: knowledge co-production, Indigenous knowledge sovereignty and the politics of global environmental change decisionmaking. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 42: 7–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2019.10.010

White House (2022) Readout: OSTP and CEQ Initial Engagement on White House Indigenous Knowledge Effort