Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Anthropology and Environmental Policy


Darren Ranco

Second Committee Member

Cindy Isenhour

Third Committee Member

Sandra de Urioste-Stone

Additional Committee Members

Mario Teisl

Lisa Schipper


This dissertation strives to rethink apolitical and ahistorical efforts for adapting to climate change in terms of a political struggle for survival in times of radical global environmental change. Drawing on ethnographic and participatory fieldwork with agro-pastoralists of the Peruvian Andes, government officials and international NGO actors, this dissertation follows emergent climate-resilient discourse of rapid glacier retreat as it travels from global origins and articulates with local culture and indigenous ecologies in the Cordillera Blanca. Through this research, I offer a critical interpretive analysis of modern, capitalist and rationalist ways of knowing and planning for climate change, finding that such adaptation efforts in the Andes constitutes hegemonic, discursive practices that reproduce uneven geographies of power and subalternize “other” ways of knowing about, and responding to, climate change.

This research probes questions of power and equity in multi-scalar adaptation efforts across four axes: indigenous representations, environmental narratives, adaptation imaginaries and collaborative governance. Across the resultant dissertation chapters I argue that a certain type of power, the ‘coloniality of power’ (Quijano, 2000), emerges as a recurrent motif in adaptation practices in the so-called “Third-World”. As modern politics for climate change prove to be hostile spaces for indigenous peoples and subaltern knowledges, this research attempts to understand and map out a plurality of adaptation imaginaries from the local to the global, illuminating their synergies and honoring their incommensurability.

After providing a critical reflexive review of collaborative adaptation efforts in post-colonial ecologies, I call for adaptation otherwise as an advance of counter-hegemonic and decolonial adaptation projects. Three relational lessons for adaptation otherwise that are drawn from the participatory and collaborative engagements undertaken in this research are suggested for decolonizing the development-adaptation enterprise, including: i) a recognition and defense of difference, ii) learning to learn from below, and iii) bridging.

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