Deltas in Motion: Unpacking the translational politics at the heart of climate change adaptation in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Deltas in Motion: Unpacking the translational politics at the heart of climate change adaptation in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Dr. Jacob Weger, Lecturer, Environmental Studies Program, Seton Hall University

Few regions of the world are as threatened by climate change as the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Rising sea levels are already transforming much of the area into a predominantly brackish environment, which is increasingly beset by alternating flood and drought conditions, while local and regional development pressures combine to create a complicated nexus of sustainability challenges. In response, a transnational, multilevel governance apparatus has emerged to integrate climate change adaptation into development planning and practice in the delta. As delta regions in general have been identified as highly vulnerable to climate change, Dutch actors and expertise have come to play a central role in this. Strategies and techniques for which the Netherlands is renowned are translated through long-term “delta plans” to guide transformations to sustainability in various countries, and Vietnam is ground zero for this approach. As in any development intervention, however, translating knowledge from one context to another is far from politically neutral. At the same time, actors at multiple levels within Vietnam are engaged in furthering a climate adaptation agenda. A politics of translation is at the heart of these operations, as differently situated actors produce, reinterpret, and mobilize knowledge for adaptation in pursuit of varied objectives and interests, with sometimes conflicting and contradictory results. Drawing on multi-scalar ethnographic research in Vietnam and the Netherlands, this talk traces the strategic translations through which different actors contribute to shaping the trajectory of climate adaptation and social-ecological change in the delta, and highlights several ongoing and salient tensions at play.

Dr. Jacob Wegeris an environmental anthropologist and currently lecturer in Environmental Studies at Seton Hall University. Drawing on perspectives from science and technology studies, political ecology, and the anthropology of development, his research examines the politics of knowledge at work in environmental governance and sustainable development initiatives, with a focus on coastal and deltaic landscapes, particularly in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. He received a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Georgia in 2021, and before coming to Seton Hall held a writing fellowship at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research in Austria.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023
12:00 Noon

Room 203, Luce Hall
34 Hillhouse Avenue

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