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Towards a material politics of socio-technical transitions: Navigating decarbonisation pathways in Malmö

Stripple, Johannes; Bulkeley, Harriet

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Johannes Stripple


As the politics of climate change shift from the design of international institutions to the pursuit of decarbonisation across multiple sites, researchers are increasingly calling attention to the geography and politics of transitions. We suggest that recent work has so far been limited by its rather incongruous focus on power as a capacity held by individual agents on the basis of the resources which they command, such that the material and relational aspects of socio-technical systems and their dynamics are neglected. In this paper, we bring critical political geographical perspectives to bear on the question of the politics of decarbonisation. Recasting decarbonisation as a matter of political geography then opens up questions of its socio-spatial configuration, its indeterminate and provisional nature as well as the ways in which decarbonisation politics are socio-materially constituted. In Malmö, a city renowned for its attempts to direct urban development towards low carbon futures, we find that decarbonisation is enacted through practices of legibility, demonstration and agreement. These serve to navigate particular junctures and form new socio-material connections and realignments between carbon, capital and infrastructure. We suggest that pathways to decarbonisation are not going to be created by any kind of linear blueprint but through processes that allow them to realign and reorder socio-material relations in new sites and domains across the urban fabric.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 3, 2019
Online Publication Date Apr 22, 2019
Publication Date Apr 22, 2019
Deposit Date Jul 8, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 22, 2021
Journal Political Geography
Print ISSN 0962-6298
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 72
Pages 52-63
Public URL


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