Climate Change: Expanding Anthropological Possibilities

Jessica O'Reilly, Cindy Isenhour, Pamela McElwee, Ben Orlove

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Climate anthropology has broadened over the past decade from predominately locally focused studies on climate impacts to encompass new approaches to climate science, mitigation, sustainability transformations, risks, and resilience. We examine how theoretical positionings, including from actor-network theory, new materialisms, ontologies, and cosmopolitics, have helped expand anthropological climate research, particularly in three key interrelated areas. First, we investigate ethnographic approaches to climate science knowledge production, particularly around epistemic authority, visioning of futures, and engagements with the material world. Second, we consider climate adaptation studies that critically examine discourses and activities surrounding concepts of vulnerability, subjectivities, and resilience. Third, we analyze climate mitigation, including energy transitions, technological optimism, market-based solutions, and other ways of living in a carbon-constrained world. We conclude that anthropological approaches provide novel perspectives, made possible through engagements with our uniquely situated research partners, as well as opportunities for opening up diverse solutions and possible transformative futures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-29
Number of pages17
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
StatePublished - Oct 21 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


  • adaptation
  • carbon mitigation
  • climate movements
  • energy transitions
  • resilience
  • science and technology studies


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