Dissertation Abstracts

Enacting Environments: An Ethnography of the Digitalisation and Naturalisation of Emissions

Author: Lippert, Ingmar , lippert@ems-research.org
Department: Sociology
University: University of Augsburg, Germany
Supervisor: Christoph Lau (Augsburg) and Lucy Suchman (Lancaster)
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Actor-network theory , ethnography , environmental sociol , organisation studies
Areas of Research: Science and Technology , Environment and Society , Organization


"Enacting Environments" is an ethnography of the encounter between corporations, sustainable development, and climate change. At this intersection, “environmental management” and “carbon accounting” are put into practice. Purportedly, these practices produce green capitalism.

Drawing on fieldwork of the day-to-day practices of corporate environmental accountants and managers, Ingmar Lippert reconstructs their work as trying to produce a reality of environment that is simultaneously stable and flexible enough for a particular corporate project: to stage the company, and consequently, capitalism, as exercising control over its relations to an antecedent environment. Not confined to mere texts or meetings between shiny stakeholders co-governing the corporation – among them some of the world's biggest auditing firms, an environmental non-governmental organisation (NGO) and standards – control is found to be distributed across as well as limited to a myriad of practical work situations, which involve spreadsheets and slide shows. Carbon accounting takes place in the midst of docile as well as dissident humans and nonhumans. The data reveals how carbon emission facts are produced and co-configure climate change realities. Lippert argues that within capitalism, environment does not exist in the singular but in the plural. Moreover, these environments do not exist out there to be read off some anterior Nature. Rather, they are brought into social, economic and political existence through the practices of accounting for them.

Using a variety of methods to study the techno-managerial engagement with carbon, Lippert shows how much is overlooked in received theories of corporate environmental accounting, theories of the performativity of environmental economics and, ultimately, the epistemic and ontic effects of fact-making in the heart of neoliberal capitalism.


Further keywords
Science and Technology Studies (STS), environmental sociology, organisation studies, actor-network theory (ANT), apparatus, multiplicity, carbon accounting, corporate environmental management