Beyond the "Narrative of Fear": a multi-scalar reading of environmental changes in the Maldives

Room I
Monday, 31 August 2015
15.15 – 17.00
adaptation, climate change, resilience, scaling

The Republic of Maldives has become a symbol of the vulnerability to climate change. The peak of this visibility coincided with the presidency of Mohameed Nasheed (2008-2012) during which the Maldives (if we consider, for instance, the COP 2009 in Copenhagen) have gone on stage in the international debate, playing a leading role within the Small Island Developing States Network. In the same period, the 2010 UNDP's Assessment of Development Results defined the Maldives a “vulnerable Small Island Developing State“ by pointing out the fragility of human and environmental ecosystems. This ”vulnerability“ is deeply related to a main geographical feature: the high dispersion of land mass and population, at the same time it is linked to what Mike Hume defined “narratives of fear”, in other words to the global discourse on vulnerability of SIDS. This narrative has been reinforced by a massive plethora of official reports and documents published by international agencies adopting “geographical”, “socio-economical” and “environmental” vulnerabilities as interpretative frameworks to describe the “development context” of the Maldives. According to this trend, mitigation and adaptation to climate change have been converted into keywords of the national political agenda and the supra-regional scale has been used as the prevailing spatial horizon. In this contribute we propose a critical reading of these categories and references showing how working on socio-environmental relationships at local scale could be adopted as an alternative framework to understand the resilience of knowledge, practices and technologies local communities developed to cope with environmental changes.

Stefano Malatesta
University of Milano-Bicocca
stefano.malatesta [at]
Marcella Schmidt di Friedberg

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