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C5 The Production of Climate Flight as an Occasion for Theorisation

Prof. Dr. Andreas Pott

Andreas Pott, Foto: Simone Reukauf

Social Geography
Osnabrück University

Prof. Dr. Thomas Scheffer

Thomas Scheffer, Foto: Simone Reukauf

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt a.M.

Climate change is exposing societies to far-reaching reality checks. In particular, the expected loss of  settlement spaces appears to be forcing the negotiation of complex adaptation strategies and absorption programs. Against this background, the project analyzes ›climate flight‹ as recent and open-ended production of migration. How does production take place in this case, which is driven by various parties (island states, NGOs, UN institutions, research, etc.) and seems unavoidable in the light of climate science forecasts? What efforts, conflicts and intermediate steps can be observed during the production of climate migration?

While populations are already ›losing the ground under their feet‹, according to Latour in his ›Terrestrial Manifesto‹ (2018), political, legal and administrative negotiations are only just beginning and are proving to be undecided. In view of the threat of a ›Great Migration‹ (Enzensberger 1992), the previous production processes of migration seem to be challenged, even overwhelmed: In many regions of the world, climate flight is more of a potentiality than a reality. It is not yet foreseeable whether there will be a recognized and enforced form of migration called ›climate flight‹. In this openness, climate flight is a revealing case for research into the production of migration (forms) and their media. Perhaps we are also observing a failure of a specific production – when structural contradictions or practical discrepancies cannot be resolved. The struggle for a ›socialization‹ of climate flight includes migration research itself.

Methodologically, the project positions itself as ›theoretical empiricism‹ (Kalthoff et al. 2008). Starting from the medium of space – for example in the form of regions that are becoming uninhabitable or (imagined) reception sites – the possible and realized links with other key media of the production of migration are examined: the figure of the ›climate refugee‹ and the infrastructure in the form of legal norms, aid funds, reception centers, etc. The project deals with key arenas of negotiation in empirical case studies: climatological scenarios of resettlement needs; self-organization of affected states; legal precedents for climate flight; development of transnational infrastructures of adaptation and reception. The contingent negotiation of climate displacement is reconstructed by means of practice and discourse research.

It is not foreseeable whether and in what form climate flight will be recognized, how it will tie in with established forms of migration and couplings of the migration media space/figure/infrastructure or how it will transform them. This liminal phase of the production of ›climate flight‹ determines the project to examine the interplay of the media in a reflexive and theory-building manner. Also with regard to the second and third funding phase of the CRC, the project develops analytics for researching the interrelation of the key media of the production of migration.