How climate-emotions shape ecological democracy

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk at an external academic organisation


Climate change and ecological transformations push the boundaries of classic democratic theory and bring democratic ideals in direct tension with the attainment of environmental objectives. In response to this, a prolific strand of the democratic theory literature has developed “democratic innovations” (Dryzek and Pickering, 2018; McKenzie, 2021), mostly conceived from the normative standpoint of rational deliberation and rooted in the modern dualistic ontology of society and nature (Goldman and Schurman, 2000). Against this trend, this paper argues that democratic theory should harness the democratic potential of affect and emotions to overcome the human-nonhuman divide and conceptualize more-than-human democratic imaginaries. Drawing on affect theory (Ahmed, 2004; Slaby and von Scheve, 2019; Verlie, 2022), ecological Marxism (Malm, 2013), and the relational turn in democratic theory, I first document how emotions act as binders of more-than-human subjectivities (Balaud and Chopot, 2021) and help to overcome the ontological limits of the representation and deliberation paradigm, while favouring the emergence of ecological agonism (Machin, 2020). Second, I discuss the role of affect, as relational conceptual device, to overcome the tension that is often pitched between environmental and ecological democracy (Pickering et al. 2020; Eckersley, 2020), along the so-called environment-democracy nexus. Together, I discuss how emotions and affect help to envisage more-than-human democratic imaginaries, by bringing into conservation ecological epistemologies situated outside classic democratic theory.

Period12 Dec 2022
Held atSciences Po, France