Overline: Veranstaltungsreihe
Headline: IASS Tuesday Talks

Natalie Koch

Greening the Gulf’s oil money: Energy transition and geopolitics in the Arabian Peninsula

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“Post-oil” futures are being promoted with great fanfare across the Arabian Peninsula today – spectacular sustainability mega-projects and financial structures are all working to “green” the region’s oil money. Given that these projects are largely controlled by the governments and their allies in the hydrocarbon sector and, increasingly, the financial sector, it is essential to understand how the energy transition is being imagined and implemented by actors that are strongly invested in continuing to profit from oil money. Taking the example of the United Arab Emirates, I show that Gulf post-oil energy projects cannot be reduced to cynical acts of “greenwashing,” but are active strategies to adapt Western sustainability discourses in their efforts to take control of defining a new “post-oil” political economy and geopolitics for the region. These jointly geopolitical and geoeconomics visions are less about promoting democratic values and energy justice, and more about preserving the capitalist and authoritarian power structures that the Gulf’s fossil fuel system was first built upon – and still prevails today.

Bio sketch:
Natalie Koch is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and the Environment at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She is a political geographer working on geopolitics, nationalism, state power, and resource governance in authoritarian contexts. Dr. Koch's current research is focused on energy and environmental policy in the Arabian Peninsula, where she examines how different actors and institutions are promoting sustainability and "post-oil" development agendas in the region. She has published extensively in journals such as Political Geography, Geopolitics, and Society and Natural Resources, and she is the author of The geopolitics of spectacle: Space, synecdoche, and the new capitals of Asia (Cornell University Press, 2018) and co-editor of the Handbook on the changing geographies of the state: New spaces of geopolitics (Edward Elgar 2020).



Stephanie Jahn
Demarcating transdisciplinary research in sustainability science - Five clusters of research modes based on evidence from 59 projects

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At this IASS Tuesday Talk, I would like to share the main findings of the research project "Modes of transdisciplinary research in comparison - MONA" and initiate an exchange on how our findings do reflect your rich experiences in transdisciplinary sustainability research at IASS Potsdam.

The discourse revolving around “new modes of knowledge production”—particularly in sustainability-oriented research—seems to suggest a duality of transdisciplinary versus non-transdisciplinary research. Yet, a spectrum of transdisciplinary research (TDR) modes may be expected. Based on a cluster analysis of 59 completed sustainability-oriented research projects, we can present an empirically grounded distinction of five research modes. Projects in one cluster approximate a transdisciplinary ideal type, while another cluster combines almost purely practice-oriented projects. Among the three remaining clusters with varying degrees of practitioner interaction, one cluster assembles projects with strictly academic research, while realizing substantial societal impact. Overall, clusters with more practitioner interaction display stronger societal outputs and impacts at the cost of academic outputs and impacts. Beyond the demarcation of transdisciplinary research modes in sustainability science, our empirical analysis revealed three important tensions related to the theory and practice of this research approach: the conceptual duality of science and society (and scholars and practitioners); imbalances in the involvement and influence of different societal actor groups; and tensions between societal and academic outputs and impacts.

With reference to these tensions, I would like to engage in an exchange around the following questions: Do your research experiences at IASS align with the research mode clusters we have identified? How do you balance scholarly publishing, interactions with practitioners, and the demand for "societal impact" of the research project? And in general, how can TDR be supported to balance these often competing demands?

Stephanie Jahn currently is PhD candidate at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg and scientific coordinator of the inter- and transdisciplinary research project “REWILD_DE” at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig (UFZ). Based on her training as a sociologist, her previous research focused on the quantitative exploration of inter- and transdisciplinary research in the German research system. Moreover, she has worked on the acknowledgement of societal benefits of research in research information systems and on the implementation of sustainability-oriented research in higher education institutions.

Recording of the talk: https://youtu.be/cGNfpXItJXQ


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May 25, 2021:
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March 23, 2021:
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February 16, 2021:
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