Scientific assessments of socio-ecological systems are becoming mainstays in guiding policymaking and other interventions in response to global environmental change. The environmentality literature emphasizes the institutional architecture of emergent science-policy regimes and how scientific research is used in political settings, creating new modes of governance and subjectivities. However, there has been relatively little attention to domain-level socio-ecological assessments as socially produced technologies where specific scientific choices are mechanisms connecting governance architecture and popular subjectivities.
Combining empirical case study and literature review, assessment technologies are analyzed in three domains: vulnerability assessment, ecosystem services assessment, life-cycle assessment. Using conceptualization, operationalization, and institutionalization as analytical lenses, the cases illustrate ways that scientific choices simplify complex socio-ecological relationships with implications for both governance practices and subjectivities. Furthermore, findings explore the possibility for assessments to be more inclusive of diverse social values and practices, enabling more empowering subjectivities.
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We would like to thank the many collaborators in Kenya, India and Portugal whose support and engagement made the initial studies possible. Thanks also to Peter Tamás, and three anonymous reviewers for insightful comments that have substantially improved the paper, though the co-authors take full credit for any faults or shortcomings.
Conflict of Interests
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.
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Crane, T.A., Pronk, M., Lakerveld, R. et al. Research Design and the Politics of Abstraction: Unpacking the Environmentality of Scientific Practice in Socioecological Assessments. Hum Ecol 44, 665–675 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-016-9865-2
- Life cycle assessment
- Ecosystem services
- Science studies
- Research methods
- Socio-ecological systems