On the 19th of March 2021, I participated in a panel on “Mobility Justice? Entangled Im/Mobilities in Climate and Environmental Change”, as part of the Entangled Im/Mobilities Conference 2021: Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences, hosted by the Research Platform Mobile Cultures and Societies at the University of Vienna.
I presented an overview of an upcoming paper, currently under review for a special issue on environmental mobilities in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, on “(Mis-)Representing Climate Mobilities: Lessons from Documentary Filmmaking”. You can download the slides here.
Abstract: Climate migration discourses tend to misrepresent the complex realities and experiences of people whose lives are impacted by climate change. All too often, the image conjured is one of inevitable and permanent cross-border movements on a massive scale. Climate mobilities scholarship contradicts these assumptions as inaccurate and damaging, with empirical research that demonstrates how varied and multi-faceted peoples’ realities and experiences of mobilities are in a changing climate. And yet, despite these well-established findings, overly simplistic climate migration narratives still abound. This poses a question: how can climate mobilities be better represented? To explore this question, I analyse six documentary films released between 2010 and 2014 that portray island and coastal
communities faced with the possibility of migration. Methodologically, I combine visual analysis, filmmaker interviews, and critical readings of related materials like the films’ websites, press materials, and reviews. Drawing on mobilities theory, I show that understanding the representation process (filmmaking) requires close attention not just to the mobilities of people being represented, but also of those engaged in representation (the filmmakers) and the subsequent circulation of the representation (film) itself. Whose mobilities are prioritised in this process is crucial. Ultimately, I argue that climate mobilities scholarship can learn from the filmmakers’ experiences.