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Studies on the Cultures and Politics of Environmental Knowledge

Kiefer, Mitchell (2022) Studies on the Cultures and Politics of Environmental Knowledge. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Large scale environmental changes pose significant problems for contemporary societies. The ways in which these problems are given meaning by actors responding to changing conditions is the primary object of analysis in the three articles of this dissertation. They do so by exploring how environmental knowledge is constructed and framed through socially relevant categories such as notions of expertise, science, risk, and resilience. The first article analyzes how an institution with authority over scientific knowledge—the Carnegie Natural History Museum—engages with narratives of the Anthropocene. The Carnegie Museum uses this contested concept to re-imagine the bases for scientific authority in relation to social problems, highlighting how articulations of environmental changes may engender new relationships between scientific and non-scientific communities. The second article explores the role of expertise and expert-public interactions in framing and responding to the problem of sea-level rise in Miami. Miami’s Sea Level Rise Committee becomes a primary setting in which the problem is articulated and acted on. As the committee’s formation relies on notions of expertise to give validity and authority to claims about the problem, (re)constructing and negotiating the rules and norms of expertise becomes a strategy for communities with divergent sensibilities of the problem to re-frame how and why sea-level rise is a problem. The third article illustrates how climate adaptation ideas and strategies travel from Rotterdam to Miami, highlighting the importance of local experiences and meanings in how the paradigm of resilience is operationalized. As the Dutch come to be seen as the global leader in resilience regarding water-related climate risks, their locally-inspired sensibilities of resilience as an adaptive strategy go on to influence Miami’s own implementations of resilience, though contextualized in ways that are specific to Miami’s context. Collectively, the three articles emphasize the importance of local contexts in how environmental problems are given meaning and how this meaning-making relies on socially constructed notions of authority over knowledge.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Kiefer, Mitchellmtk36@pitt.edumtk360000-0001-7219-5773
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDuck, Waverlywod1@pitt.eduwod1
Committee MemberStaggenborg, Suzannesuzstagg@pitt.edusuzstagg
Committee MemberPaterson, Markpaterson@pitt.edupaterson
Committee MemberThum, Gregorthum@pitt.eduthum
Date: 12 October 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 30 March 2022
Approval Date: 12 October 2022
Submission Date: 18 July 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 162
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Sociology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Symbolic interaction; Sense-making
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2022 14:21
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2022 14:21


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