Critical Studies of Climate Media, Discourse, and Power

Chairs: Hanna E. Morris (University of Pennsylvania) and Rachel Wetts (Brown University)

This working group will bring together scholars from different disciplines, methodologies, and geographical locations to grapple with questions of discourse, power, and climate politics. We will analyze the role of media and other institutions in amplifying patterns of discourse that impede comprehensive and equitable responses to the climate crisis. We will also examine instances when these institutions have promoted positive action to address climate change. Some of the questions we will ask include (but are not limited to):

  • How is climate change depoliticized and market mechanisms naturalized through discourse? What role do journalistic and other institutions play in naturalizing certain market and technological “solutions” above other, more democratically-designed responses that seek transformative political change?
  • When and under what conditions have critical and radical social movement discourses been able to disrupt dominant technocratic and neoliberal narratives? How have these discourses been appropriated or co-opted by political and business interests? How has this co-optation been resisted historically and how is it currently being resisted today?
  • What role have values and identity historically played in contestation over climate change? How have people of color been excluded or marginalized in research, activism, and policymaking to address climate change? To what degree has climate politics become racialized, and what role do discourses of scientific expertise play in maintaining whiteness as the assumed identity of climate activists and scholars?
  • How are representations of race, gender, ability, sexuality, and age used to “other” and denigrate climate advocates? How are these exclusionary regimes of representation contested, negotiated, and resisted through “counter-discourses”? What role do media and other cultural and civic institutions play in these processes?

The format and structure of the working group will be determined based on the needs of the membership. We will decide, as a collective, how this working group can best support the members’ research goals. This could take a variety of forms including inviting speakers from outside the working group, organizing research presentations by members of the working group, fostering collaborative projects, and providing feedback on individual works-in-progress. We hope to organize a diverse and inclusive group of scholars committed to social justice, equity, and political change.