Themes 1: Security in diversity

Among scholars of livelihoods, diversity has long been viewed as a central determinant of livelihood security. At the unit level, be it households, firms, regions, or economic sectors, it is assumed that diverse income streams help to guard against the failure of any single source or productive activity, while a diversity of production strategies helps to ensure the integrity of production systems more generally. At the household level, this diversity is rooted in both the constraints and opportunities that different households face, structured by endowments of assets, access to natural resources, participation in commodity and labour markets, and benefits from a broad array of public assistance programmes, among other factors.
Papers under this theme will seek to disentangle the myriad factors and relationships that influence productive strategies to better understand the ways that diversity functions in concrete settings. What kinds of diversity should be valued, and with respect to which livelihoods and which assets? How should different kinds of diversity be compared — and at what scales? Under what circumstances might diversity serve to diminish livelihood security rather that promote it? We invite papers that trace the casual pathways through which diversity enhances livelihood security (or undermines it) and advance understanding of the role of public assistance in advancing desired outcomes.

Themes 2: Topographies of governance

A long tradition of scholarship has sought to investigate the multi-faceted ways that citizens encounter state institutions and the implications of these interactions for human welfare and development outcomes. A dominant strand of this scholarship has focused on the ways that citizens’ interactions with state institutions are mediated by a variety of social, political, and bureaucratic interlocutors and, as such, are often governed by extra-constitutional forms of social power as much as (or more than) formal rights, entitlements, and stated policy goals. While these forms of informal ‘political mediation’ may provide crucial channels of access for citizens that lack the ability to interact with state institutions directly, they also often reinforce patterns of exclusion. We refer to these as uneven topographies of governance because they ‘bend’ differently around individuals of contrasting social, economic, and political positions and in relation to geographically-distributed centres of power. At the same time, these topographies are also constantly being reworked through new institutions, strategies of governance, and forms of political practice — a process which will continue through the reinvention of programmes and policies through greater attention to climate risk and change.
In this theme, we focus on the networks of social and political relationships through which citizens gain access to resources and benefits from multiple state agencies. Several sub-themes present themselves, including: (a) the networks of social and political relationships through which citizens gain access to resources and benefits from multiple state agencies, (b) the ways that citizens seek leverage on public services through democratic institutions and processes at multiple scales, and (c) the means through which powerful social groups continue to reproduce patterns of dominance and exclusion through control over public resources. Research under this theme aims to provide empirical evidence on the multitude of ways in which citizens encounter public institutions within an ever-changing topography of governance and the implications of these interactions for vulnerability and adaptation to climate change.

Themes 3: Technology and society

Over the last two decades, the salience of technology in proposals for mitigation of and adaptation to climate change has increased exponentially. Ranging from the construction of sea walls and cloud seeding to biochar and mini-grids, technology has become enmeshed in debates around responses to climate change from household to global scales. Information and communication technologies, it is fervently believed, have the potential to improve bargaining power by providing access to market prices, provide a platform for building larger information networks, and improve access to specialised knowledge and resources. And yet, despite this celebration of technology, there remains surprisingly limited social science research on the ways that these technologies are incorporated into livelihoods and the ways that they, in turn, alter the economic and life opportunities of their users (as well as their limitations in doing so).
This theme aims to build critical understandings of the ways that technology has altered production strategies and networks or reconfigured patterns of exposure to climate risk — with implications for social relationships, economic opportunities, and the susceptibilities of those most vulnerable to climate change. We seek papers that attend to the social and institutional dimensions of technology, including but not limited to: (a) institutional pathways for specific technologies to lead to changes in vulnerability to climate-related risks, (b) mechanisms through which technology is implicated in adaptation actions (information, efficiency, productivity), and (c) the role of intellectual property and ownership of technology in its transformative potential.