KWI – Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (Kulturwissenschaftliches Intitut Essen, KWI)

Research areas

Project ClimateWorlds: Global (Media) Ethnography

Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Claus Leggewie (KWI), Prof. Dr. Jörg Bergmann (BGHS Bielefeld University )
Coordinator: Dr. Heike Greschke (BGHS Bielefeld University)

Website of the Project

Climate change is a matter of top priority and topicality to society. Melting glaciers and rising sea levels, severe storms and floods result in high (social) costs and grab the media’s attention, as well as forcing politics, the business world and scientists to take a clear stand.

But what exactly is climate change, actually? How is it experienced in people’s everyday lives and what are its consequences for society? While the causes and tangible effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, can be studied using scientific methods, the social impact and the cultural forms of interpretation and coping with climate change cannot simply be derived from models of the physical structure of the earth’s surface in the future, because even if climate change affects the world over, it can only be experienced in everyday life by way of localized cultural coding and patterns of interpretation.

At present we only know very little about the wide variety of culturally specific perceptions and traditions of coping with climate change and ocean dynamics, which have developed in various societies over the course of evolution and how they affect attitudes to the debate concerning global climate change. This causes us not only to ignore valuable knowledge that could be useful in developing intelligent solutions to the present-day climate problems, but there is also a lack of a sound empirical basis which would make scientific projections of the global social impact of climate change possible.

From April 2010 onwards, a global collaborative team of ethnographers, the "Climate Worlds" research team will study if and how climate change is perceived and interpreted at a local level and what culturally specific practices have formed for coping with ocean dynamics in various coastal regions of the world using methods from video-ethnographical field study.

These studies, which are located at sites on every continent around the globe, will be combined to form a teleidoscope, in which a central topos of the global climate debate is broken down into a wide variety of local cultural interpretations.


pdf iconClimate Worlds Independent Junior Research Group research program