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The Politics of Expertise in Environmental Research: Considering the Climber

Fri, September 1, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Sheraton Boston, 3, Beacon H

Abstract

As glaciers disappear at alarming rates in the Peruvian Andes, science researchers from all over the globe are teaming up with local NGOs, municipal governments, and state agencies in order to develop secure climate change adaptation strategies. Yet essential to these scientific processes is the work and expertise of local mountain climbing guides, who risk their bodies and lives to collect certain forms of necessary data. Through routine visits to the same glaciers, these climbers, from typically campesino and indigenous backgrounds, have constructed the largest and most thorough collection of black carbon data anywhere in the world. Based on 18 months of qualitative fieldwork, this proposed talk provides an ethnographic glimpse into the cultural politics and bio-politics of environmental expertise. How is it negotiated, determined, and valued — and to what effects? And how does the expertise of climbers (and local knowledge producers) affect the process of environmental planning?

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