ipb work in progress: Challenges of Researching Climate Justice Movements and Deep Decarbonization

Jan Wilkens, Charlotte Huch and Christopher Pavenstädt, researchers at the Cluster of Excellence “Climate, Climatic Change, and Society” (CLICCS), will present an intermediate report of their work, locating social movementes in conflicts around climate crisis and de-carbonization.

The event takes places in the seminar room of the Collaborative Research Center “Intervening Arts” (Grunewaldstraße 34 in Berlin-Steglitz, not Schöneberg!). Participation via Webex is possible. Please register at info@protestinstitut.eu to get the access link.

Climate movements are central to advancing social transformations required to tackle climate change and reach deep decarbonization (Engels et al. 2023). Currently, climate movements in the Global North are undergoing remarkable changes, shifting from foregrounding generalized claims and mass mobilizations to more disruptive and confrontational protest practices and returning to climate justice as an overall guiding frame. While research on the causes and developments of ongoing transformations in Global North climate activism has already produced important insights, it is unclear what the implications are regarding social-political consequences. Furthermore, the crucial role of Global South movements remains largely understudied. To what extent are disruptive, confrontational, and climate justice-oriented practices a driving or a restraining factor for decarbonization? What are current analytical and empirical limitations regarding Global South movements? This paper seeks to shed light on the scholarship’s blind spots: the nexus of deep decarbonization, climate justice and Global South movements by, first, reviewing dominant theories in social movement studies concerned with movements’ impact on social and political dynamics, namely political process theory and political opportunity structures (Tilly 2008, McAdam et al, 2003), collective action framing (Snow & Benford, 2000), as well as prefigurative politics (Boggs, 1977, Maeckelbergh, 2011, Sandberg, 2020). In the second step, we discuss how these existing approaches are currently used to explain the potential impacts of climate justice activism on societal transformation toward deep decarbonization and reflect on limitations of these approaches. Finally, we call for a more distinctive and critical reflection on the soundness of the dominant movement theories with regard to the contingent dynamics of the climate justice movement. We argue that in order to advance research and subsequent theory-building on climate justice movements, studies have to thoroughly take into account the ubiquity of climate change as a multi-scalar challenge that stands out in contrast to other political and cultural problems that have been at the center of past mobilizations. A critical examination of existing research on Global South climate protest, and the lack thereof, will not only highlight this challenge but also help to outline the methodological Eurocentrism of many approaches. 


Date And Time

11.12.2023 16:30 to
11.12.2023 18:00


SFB Intervenierende Künste