Working Paper 1: Rivers and dams of the American Empire

RIVERS AND DAMS OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE

SOCIOLOGY OF THE ENVIRONEMENT AND THE SPHERE OF POWER

AUTHORS
Murielle Coeurdray (UMI iGlobes)
Joan Cortinas (UMI iGlobes)
Brian O’Neill (UMI iGlobes)
Franck Poupeau (UMI iGlobes)

Coeurdray Murielle, Cortinas Joan, O’Neil Brian, Poupeau Franck, « Rivers and dams of the American Empire. Sociology of the environement and the sphere of power », Working Paper 1. Projet BLUEGRASS, 2015, p 16.

INTRODUCTION – OBJECTIVES AND INST RUMENTS OF A SOCIOLOGY OF THE ENVIRONMENT

Over the last few years, the environment has become a subject of central importance in the human and social sciences: in both the United States and Europe, interest in political ecology and environmental ethics has grown dramatically (Gagnon 2008 ; Hache 2013); environmental history has become a vast field of study, at once structured and diversified (Lochet & Quenet 2012); political science researchers are focusing on approaches to the governance of resources (Olstrom 1990); and “instruments” have been implemented by institutions responsible for the environment (Lascoumes 1994; Lascoumes & Le Galès 2004). However, environmental sociology is finding it difficult to constitute itself as a specialist field in its own right, to the degree that it is, on occasion, possible to speak of a “resistance” on the part of the discipline to defining an object of research that is still relatively absent from its raisons d’être, for example the jurisdictions of various institutions (Kamaora & Vlassopoulos: 2014). As well as academic blockages, one should also mention a reticence to accept the demands of a field of applied research largely dominated by international expertise, whose centers of interest in terms of social issues are confined to a small number of well-defined themes, among which are adapting to climate change, reporting perceptions of the environment, modeling the decision-making process, and analyzing the participation of stakeholders, in most cases assimilated to “economic actors.” Furthermore, the pragmatist approach (Latour 1991; Hache 2011) consisting of studying the relations between society and its “other,” namely nature, which seems to be increasingly fashioned and transformed by human action, appears to be trapped in an epistemological constructivism which does not so much efface the “great dichotomy” (nature/culture; object/ subject, etc.), largely imagined and reinvented a posteriori, as dissolve its object in human practices carried out in a kind of sociological void … continue reading