Vulnerability, Adaptation, and Maladaptation to Climate Change

The IOWC podcast team interviews Dr. Lisa Schipper (University of Oxford) an Environmental Social Science Research Fellow at the Environmental Change Institute (ECI). Dr. Schipper’s research explores the interlinkages between climate change and human development, as she seeks to address the question of whether fair and just development is possible in a changing climate.

Our discussion covers Dr. Schipper’s exploration of vulnerabilities to climate change that exist in communities in the developing world. She argues that socio-cultural dimensions of vulnerability –such as gender, culture, religion, etc. – relate to structural inequalities of power, justice and equity; ultimately leading to mosaics of different levels of climate change vulnerability within each stand-alone community. Dr. Schipper delves into how the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic, social, and political impacts have increased vulnerabilities throughout the developing world, as well as how downfalls of short-term climate change adaptation strategies, and maladaptation to climate change, have only emphasized existing vulnerabilities within specific communities. Moreover, as a current coordinating lead author of Chapter 18 of the Working Group 2 Contribution to the 6th assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Dr. Schipper delves into the problematic attitude of prioritizing scientific and quantitative data over qualitative data of the human experience in climate change reporting. She warns of the simplification and misunderstandings that are frequently engendered by focusing solely on the numeric values of climate change instead of truly fleshing out the complexities that exist among human beings experiencing vulnerability to climate change. Finally, Dr. Schipper touches on the effects of the frequent exclusion of female voices and voices from the global south, particularly in African countries, from the academic echo chamber. She argues that this form of gatekeeping excludes different perspectives, and perhaps solutions, to the rapidly changing climate.

Lisa’s bio page:
Include the CarbonBrief piece:
Twitter handle (to be included): @schipper_lisa

Arch, Coastal Shipping of Tokugawa Japan

Professor Jakobina Arch (Whitman College) discusses her research into coastal shipping of Tokugawa Japan (17th century -19th century), and accounts of shipwrecks’ survivors as insights on the religious world of sailors. Unraveling how Western and Meiji sources have spoken disparagingly of the designs of the ‘bezaisen’ or coastal ships of the Tokugawa period, Arch proffers compelling evidence to point out the construction of the ‘bezaisen’ stemmed from specific environmental exigencies — they were designed to easily navigate the shallow waters near the coast of Japan. Far from being an unchanging maritime vessel, Arch argues the ‘bezaisen’ underwent significant innovations during the Tokugawa period, responding to market forces and adapting to better understandings of the coastal environment of Japan. Delving into surviving oral narratives of sailors cast away by shipwrecks, Arch also highlights how the religious world of Japanese sailors caught in storms and/or shipwrecks drew upon a medley of Buddhist and Shinto religious practices to interact with the oceanic and terrestrial environments of Japan. She concludes that accounts of shipwrecks’ survivors also form an alternative archive to researching weather and climatic patterns around the Sea of Japan in the early modern period.
For more on Prof. Arch’s publications, see her academic bio:
Cover Image: Photo showing a bezaisen at anchor with the rudder lifted up through the opening in the transom on the left: View of boats, Japan. Albumen silver print by Ueno Hikoma, c. 1860s.
See also: A woodblock print of the bigger bezaisen cargo ships anchored in an Edo harbor (on the center right), with smaller, shallower-draft cargo ships sailing closer in (center) and a rowboat with what looks like yellow rice bales from the cargo ships headed into the warehouses beyond the bridge (slightly to the right of center in front of the sailing ships) Toto meisho: Eitai-bashi Fukugawa Shinchi, Woodblock print by Hiroshige, c 1818-1858.

Kelly, Consuming Ivory

In this podcast, assistant professor Alexandra Kelly (University of Wyoming) discusses her Spring 2021 publication of Consuming Ivory: Mercantile Legacies of East Africa and New England (Culture, Place, and Nature). Throughout the podcast, Dr. Kelly delves into the complex global legacies of the historical ivory trade. From elephant conservation efforts to the cultural heritage industries in New England and East Africa, her study reveals the ongoing global repercussions of the ivory craze and will be of interest to anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, and conservationists.

This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC), Archisman Chaudhuri and Philip Gooding (both postdoctoral fellows, IOWC, McGill).

Brownell, Gone to Ground

In this podcast, Dr. Emily Brownell (University of Edinburgh) discusses with Dr. Philip Gooding (IOWC) her recently-published book, Gone to Ground: A history of environment and infrastructure in Dar es Salaam (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020). Dr. Brownell’s book breaks new ground in urban environmental history, discussing how Dar es Salaam’s urban inhabitants oriented themselves to the city’s rural peripheries to literally ‘build’ the urban environment in the 1970s and early 1980s. In so doing, she puts into conversation the everyday experiences of commuters, farmers, and factory workers with concerns about broader structures, including climate change, the 1970s oil crisis, and international conservationism. In this discussion, Dr. Brownell also touches on themes of gender and the idea of ‘crisis’ in Africanist scholarly writing, and she discusses aspects of her forthcoming project: Stories from the Substrate, which aims to narrate East African history from the soil through a variety of case studies of how people, animals, and plants have made and remade the region in the last century.

For more on Dr. Brownell’s work, see her university profile.

For more on Gone to Ground, see her page with University of Pittsburgh Press.

Jalais, Tigers, Tiger Food, and Mental Health in the Sundarbans

In our latest episode of the Indian Ocean World Podcast, Prof. Annu Jalais, an anthropologist and an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore, talks about the Sundarbans, the largest delta in the world that sprawls across India and Bangladesh along the Bay of Bengal. The Sundarbans supports a unique biodiverse environment of mangroves, tigers, crocodiles, snakes, and humans. Prof. Jalais tells us how she developed an interest in the region as a high school student; why it’s imperative for any researcher to understand the forests and its tigers before writing historical and anthropological studies of the Sundarbans; and how the relationship between humans and nonhumans, especially tigers, have highlighted the narratives of development and politics around it in the Sundarbans. Prof. Jalais also discusses a serious impact of climate change in the Sundarbans: disaster fatigue resulting from ever shifting river embankments that change the contours of forested and inhabited lands, regular cyclones, and close encounters with nonhumans (tigers, crocodiles, and snakes) that often have a telling effect on the mental health of the inhabitants of the Sundarbans.
Bio page:

Our “Southern Collective” website on the northern Indian Ocean:
Map of the Sundarbans region (it keeps changing so download it from here):
Image: Wikicommons – Sundarban Tiger []

Goldstein, Indonesia’s Peatlands and Environmental Politics

In this podcast, the IOWC interviews Professor Jenny Goldstein of Cornell University on her research into Indonesia’s peat lands. Her interview offers a discussion of her unique journey from architecture to geography, and an in-depth explanation of how the Indonesian peat lands became her subject of study. She further explores the value of so-called degraded lands from a biodiversity and regenerative standpoint, exploring diverse techniques of rice growth in Peatland environments. Moreover, Professor Goldstein offers a nuanced understanding of how the development of oil palm plantations on Indonesia’s peat lands has had multiple effects, including production of divergent scientific knowledge on whether oil palm plantations across Indonesia’s peat lands lead to more carbon emissions or not, how these debates shape legislations concerning agriculture and forests in Indonesia, and what could be the climatic impact of such policies eventually.

Relevant Links:

Links to relevant publications:

This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC), Archisman Chaudhuri and Philip Gooding (both postdoctoral fellows, IOWC, McGill).

Image: Patrice Levang. Smoldering peat soil in rice paddy, Central Kalimantan, late 1997. 

Boswell, Ocean Cultures and Heritage

Prof. Rosabelle Boswell (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) discusses with Philip Gooding (IOWC) her recent appointment as the South African Research Chair in Ocean cultures and heritage. This is a new and exciting position designed to contribute to the sustainability of the ocean and to build partnerships with stakeholders. Prof. Boswell discusses her aims for the position, its interdisciplinary characteristics, the challenges therein, and how her past and ongoing research engages with the themes of ocean cultures and heritages.

For more on the South African Research Chair in Ocean cultures and heritage, see: here

For the articles mentioned in the podcast, see:

Rosabelle Boswell, ‘Sega as voice-work in the Indian Ocean region,’ Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, 13, 1 (2017).

Rosabelle Boswell, ‘Sensuous stories in the Indian Ocean islands,’ The Senses and Society, 12, 2 (2017).

Image credit: Reuters/Stephane Antoine. A volunteer cleans oil spilled from the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, that ran aground on a reef, at the Mahebourg Waterfront in Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius, 12 August 2020. 

Günaydı, Contextualising environmental contingencies

Mustafa Emre Günaydı, a PhD student at Iowa State University and a research assistant working on the IOWC’s Appraising Risk partnership, presents his ongoing research into the environmental history of the Ottoman Empire. In this podcast, he discusses a work in progress, in which he analyses the effects of the 1831 floods, epidemic, and locust invasion in Baghdad within the context of wider geopolitical developments and leaders’ responses to natural and human challenges.

For more on Mustafa’s work, see his Iowa State profile:


Campbell, The Travels of Robert Lyall

Gwyn Campbell, founding director of the IOWC, discusses with Philip Gooding, a postdoctoral fellow at the same institution, his forthcoming book, The Travels of Robert Lyall, 1789-1831: Scottish surgeon, naturalist and British agent to the court of Madagascar, which will be published with Palgrave in early 2021:

The discussion takes the listener through Scotland, London, Russia, and Madagascar. It explores several themes in IOW history, including imperialism, slavery, missionaries, indigenous institutions and beliefs, and the latter’s political, cultural, and social encounters with European empires and ideologies.

McQuade, A Genealogy of Terrorism

Dr. Joseph McQuade (University of Toronto) discusses his recent published book, A Genealogy of Terrorism: Colonial law and the origins of an idea (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 2020), as well as his ongoing postdoctoral research.

In A Genealogy of Terrorism, McQuade demonstrates how the modern concept of terrorism was shaped by colonial emergency laws dating back into the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Beginning with the ‘thugs’, ‘pirates’, and ‘fanatics’ of the nineteenth century, McQuade traces the emerging and novel legal category of ‘the terrorist’ in early twentieth-century colonial law, ending with an examination of the first international law to target global terrorism in the 1930s. Drawing on a wide range of archival research and a detailed empirical study of evolving emergency laws in British India, he argues that the idea of terrorism emerged as a deliberate strategy by officials seeking to depoliticize the actions of anti-colonial revolutionaries, and that many of the ideas embedded in this colonial legislation continue to shape contemporary understandings of terrorism today.

Interviewer: Philip Gooding (IOWC); Producer: Renee Manderville (IOWC).