About Greenmentality

Greenmentality: A Political Ecology of the Green Economy in the Global South
Research Council of Norway (FRIPRO Toppforsk) Project, 2016-2020

Since the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 (Rio+20) the green economy has been at center of international politics. Greening economies and development is considered by leading policy and business actors as an opportunity to combine economic growth with environmental protection and poverty reduction.

But what type of governance does this unfolding green economy lead to in the Global South? How does it influence rural production systems and how do rural people respond to its implementation? These are the main questions that this research project investigates through detailed empirical fieldwork in a selection of cases in East Africa and India.

To understand current environmental governance in the Global South, the project combines Foucault’s notion of ‘governmentality’ (understood as the techniques and tactics of government) with theories of resistance, social agency and critical institutionalism. We believe this theoretical combination may be productive in understanding environmental governance by combining a focus on power and authority with one on agency, rights, and institutions. The ambition is thus to develop an understanding of the interplay between structural power and individual agency as played out in the context of global economic and environmental change in the Global South.

Building upon previous contributions to the study of green economies, we propose to empirically examine variations in actually existing green economy interventions, as well as their local responses. As such, this inquiry falls within the field of political ecology, a rapidly growing and diverse body of literature that focuses on how power manifests in both discursive and material struggles over the environment.

Yet, despite a proliferation of debates about the potential effects and consequences of the green economy, few studies have critically examined the institutional manifestations and actual impacts of such initiatives in specific empirical cases. Seeking to contribute in this regard, we propose to study new, ‘actually-existing’ green economy initiatives as a form of ‘green governmentality’ (or ‘greenmentality’).

We will analyse the workings of greenmentalities in East Africa and India, focusing on how environmental subjects respond to these forms of governance. Specifically, we examine reactions ‘from below’ to three main land-uses (ecotourism, carbon forestry and climate-smart agriculture), which have been highlighted by various policy and strategy papers on the green economy in a developing context.