Online Symposium - Organizational Ethnography in Times of Climate Crisis

Journal of Organizational Ethnography


The catastrophic impacts of climate change and solutions which can mitigate impacts have been widely discussed by scientists for decades, yet organizations and governments have been slow to act. Growing geopolitical tensions, like the war in Ukraine, political turmoil around Taiwan, Afghanistan, Iran, the changing configurations within the European Union, to name just a few, complicate matters for agreeing on a joint global direction towards climate action.

However, in recent years, discussion of climate change and the practical implementation of climate action have come to the foreground among the public. Celebrities, the wealthy, and politicians blocking climate policy have been labeled “climate criminals” as humans and other critters around the world struggle with- and die of record-breaking heat waves, wildfires, inflation, war, food insecurity, and epidemics. The shift in awareness was triggered by movements, such as Fridays for Future or Extinction Rebellion, that include a broad variety of involved individuals, as well as different strategies of protest.

The role of organizations, both state and non-state driven, and organized action, cannot be denied. Thus, as a community and a journal, we wish to foster a series of discussions with researchers on how the climate crisis is conceptualized by different actors, but also how these various conceptualizations push for change across organizations, and how human ánd non-human sentience are impacted. 

Based on this we identified four themes that we wish to discuss in a series of four events.

  1. Extreme weather conditions around the globe: Regional and local experiences
  2. Performativity of global conferences and actors and likewise events
  3. Radicalization around the climate crisis and its organization
  4. Grassroots initiatives and their responses: Ways forward?

We also want to end every theme with the question what we, as academics, will do with this knowledge in our daily professional lives as lecturers and researchers. How can we use this in our teaching? Can we include such knowledge in our research questions / design? 

Key Information


November - December 2022, 4 dates on Fridays for Future


Preparation for a Special Issue on the topic in the Journal of Organizational Ethnography / Podcasts


Two presentations per date (20 minutes), plus discussion (1,5 hours each event)

Event 1) Extreme weather conditions around the globe: Regional and local experiences

Date: 25 November 2022, time tbc

46 degrees Celsius in Canada in 2021, melting tundra in Siberia, droughts across Africa, flooding in Europe and Australia, forest fires and tornados in the United States, a European drought in the summer of 2022, alarming books on the earth becoming ‘uninhabitable’ (David Wallace-Wells 2019) for human and non-human life alike. Extreme weather patterns around the globe seem to be one of the most visible ‘red flags’ that signal that the climate crisis is real. No IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report can argue about the climate crisis as strongly as the experience of living through an extreme weather event. We are interested to hear more about these local experiences and its interpretations of extreme weather from around the globe.

We would welcome papers on topics that include themes and questions concerning:

  • (Auto) ethnographic descriptions of experiencing extreme weather conditions
  • What is the framing of extreme weather conditions in local media?
  • How are extreme weather conditions represented on social media?
  • How do local weather conditions ‘add up’ to global perspectives on climate crisis?  


Event 2) Performativity of global conferences and actors and likewise events

Date: 2 December 2022, time tbc

Every year world leaders gather alongside thousands of policymakers, world-renowned scientists, consultants, CEOs, NGO directors, and activists to develop policies and methods for addressing the global climate crisis. On the global stage, The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (CoP) has become the pinnacle event in which audiences around the world wait with bated breath to see what solutions arise after two weeks of intense and dramatic negotiations. Despite the excitement surrounding these global meetings, there has been growing criticism regarding the “performance” and pageantry observed, the heavy use of technical language, acronyms, and dramatic debates about terminology during these meetings. Given the increasing threat climate change poses for the survival of multiple species, including humans, many critics argue international climate negotiations have become performative as opposed to proactive in addressing the climate crisis.

We would welcome papers on topics that include themes and questions concerning:

  • (Auto) ethnographic descriptions of experiencing international climate policy meetings, including the CoP, other UNFCCC events, or regional / local climate action events.
  • How does the performance of climate action impede large-scale progress of mitigating the impacts of global climate change?
  • How does the performativity of the CoP benefit or influence public perceptions of climate change policy?
  • What lessons can the global climate change policy and research community take away from understanding the performativity of politics at international climate change meetings?


Event 3) Radicalization around the climate crisis and its organization

Date: 9 December 2022, time tbc

Climate activism has reached another momentum. With movements such as ‘Fridays for Future’ or activist groups that appeal to make use of non-violent civil disobedience, various populations have been mobilized over the past years to take part in climate change protests. While the activist scene has used a diverse set of measures to receive attention and to spark change, we also see a renegotiating between state power and protest. Latest reports from France show how French police do not use glue solvent to detach protesters’ hands from the ground, while in other contexts, squatting and blocking forests, constructing infrastructure to hinder deforestation become useful tactics to stop deforestation. We therefore wish to discuss links between radicalisation and climate change in the context of state violence, as well as in regard to indigenous rights, aspects of gender, class and ethnicity.

We would welcome papers on topics that include themes and questions concerning:

  • (Auto)ethnographic descriptions of (temporary) protest organization
  • Climate protests in context of state responses, taking into account violence on both sides and the dealing with (count)measures
  • What drives groups and individuals to pursue or support radical changes in society that can potentially conflict with democratic legal orders to reach climate goals?
  • How does climate activism transfer ideas and demands into different nation-state concepts? 
  • Historical aspects of climate protest
  • The role of indigenous rights in radical protest and the role of (settler) colonial states
  • Gender, class, ethnicity, and race, and species as aspects influencing the pursuit of climate change


Event 4) Grassroots initiatives and their responses: Ways forward?

Date: 16 December 2022, time tbc

How does the climate crisis capture the individual and local imagination and leads to all sorts of initiatives ‘to do something about it’? What are the local initiatives that give people hope for the future? What do local people do to turn ‘climate anxiety’ into ‘hope for the climate’? On the very individual level of deciding to rewild your garden, grow your own vegetables, not flying anymore, isolate one’s house from national infrastructure, donate to organizations that fight against the climate crisis, etc., to higher levels of joining or organizing local initiatives to counter further damages to the planet and the climate, ranging from advocating solar power or electrical cars, to awareness raising around the climate crisis awareness through organizing (online) platforms or organizing local protests.

We would welcome papers on topics that include themes and questions concerning:

  • More conceptual papers focusing on ‘climate anxiety’, ‘hope’, ‘coping mechanism’, ‘future’, all explicitly related to the climate crisis
  • Individual (lifestyle) choices around the climate crisis
  • Grassroots initiatives towards fighting the climate crisis
  • How are individual anxieties around the climate crisis translated into organizing grassroots initiatives?

Contact information

Please send  a brief abstract of your potential talk and a short CV to inform us about your general research interests to [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]. Submissions can be new research, works in progress, or new ideas with the goal of submitting a full research paper for a special issue of JOE on the climate crisis.


Danielle Eiseman

Lisa Marie Borrelli

Harry Wels

These events will be climate compensated via Trees for All, see