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Co-production of seasonal representations for adaptive institutions

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CALENDARS (Co-production of seasonal representations for adaptive institutions)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2021-12-31

Research on climate adaptation is generating interest into the capacities availing communities to adapt to seasonal variability and change. But work on seasonal adaptation is held back by a scant regard for the seasonal cultures that underlie individuals’ everyday lives in a community.

The problem is that communities face increasingly rapid and complex changes to seasonal cycles and conditions. The way their cultures orient to these changes could determine whether they serve as resources for adaptation, or lock communities into maladaptive pathways. Addressing this problem, we assert, calls for critical inquiries that uncover seasonal cultures in different institutions, and interrogate their fitness and sustainability for coping with shifting seasonal regimes.

This cultural focus is important because communities’ capacity to adapt to seasonal (and climate) change could significantly hinge on their cultures. Where cultures are fitted to seasonal rhythms, they serve as tacit, taken-for-granted knowledges and practices for anticipating and living by seasonal conditions. But where seasonal cultures face rapid and disruptive climatic other changes, they can be slow to internalize the required transformations. Unfit cultures potentially lead to maladaptive and unsustainable decisions; whether its mistimed crop cycles, or addiction to plane travel. There is growing evidence of a dissonance between communities’ established understandings and practices of seasonal rhythms, and the seasonal conditions they are experiencing.

We suggest institutions offer bounded ‘sites’ for studying and transforming the specific ways seasonal cultures are given effect to, ‘in action’. Uncovering the adaptive capacity in institutions’ seasonal cultures demands new lines of critical institutional analysis. The CALENDARS project empirically explores the relationship between different institutions’ seasonal cultures and their successful adaptation through an in-depth comparative study in two local communities in Norway and New Zealand.

We have assembled a seven-person research team to closely study institutions in two places; Bergen city in Norway, and the townships on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. Our researchers embed themselves in key institutions, working with the people of these institutions to reflect on the ways they think and act according to seasons, and co-create new seasonal cultures for the future. The overall objective of the project is: To advance knowledge and understanding of how seasonal representations shape and are shaped by institutions, and critically appraise the quality of these representations for contributing to successful adaptation to seasonal change.
CALENDARS has made significant achievements in its first 30 months, towards advancing understanding of how seasonal representations shape and are shaped by institutions, and critically appraising the quality of these representations for adaptation. In total CALENDARS has published (and submitted) 12 peer reviewed articles and chapters (led two special issues) and 15 popular science publications, given 26 presentations, and held 26 workshops to engage groups in thinking about changing seasonality. The project work has been advancing along several lines.

One line of work has been to shine a light on the often overlooked cultural foundations of institutions' architecture, and how culture affects the way people adapt to climate and seasons in different periods of the year. There is relatively little attention to the deep-seated seasonal cultures that are often taken-for-granted, yet play a significant role in how people decide to act in different seasonal periods; their practices, the objects they use, the things they value and the way they symbolise life in an institution.

A second line of work is about the narratives or stories that people tell about seasons and other cycles in their institution. Our narratives can be seen as part of our cultures, and at the same time narratives provide a window on our cultures. Our work is both about how we can study peoples seasonal stories, and what those stories tell us about the ways people act and think and feel 'seasonally'.

A third line of work is about broadening what counts as knowledge for seasonal (and climate) adaptation. CALENDARS is investigating what role our largely unconscious (tacit) seasonal knowledges and practices - e.g. local, traditional, craft knowledges - play in our decision-making. An important part of this work is exploring ways to assess the quality or value of these knowledges for seasonal adaptation.

A fourth line of work is on method, and particularly how we can work with groups in institutions to examine their seasonal cultures with them, and then critically take distance on these cultures and think about how we could consider changing the ways we act and think and feel seasonally. We have initiated work with artists and filmographers to create artistic representations of seasons - in films or virtual reality simulations or traditional calendar artefacts - where people can play with seasons and imagine seasons.

A fifth line of work has been to anchor the project in interesting institutions in the two case studies - in Bergen Norway and the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. This has not been easy under the pandemic conditions.

A sixth line of work is devoted to project management and setting up the team and infrastructure necessary to run the project.
The CALENDARS project is pushing the boundaries of work on climate adaptation governance relative to:

1. How scholars think about the the architecture of institutions and the annual rhythms moving these institutions and guiding seasonal adaptation
2. How scholars study narratives of climate in institutions
3. The tacit knowledge considered for seasonal decision-making, and whether approaches to peer review can be extended to tacit knowledge
4. The innovative mode of co-producing knowledge of institutional cultures with people active in those institutions

At this half-way point, the project team is well poised to deliver the project. This provides a solid platform to deliver the following expected results over the next 30 months:
- the team has several conceptual and methodological manuscripts under work which will be submitted for publication before the end of the project.
- we aim to edit a popular science volume assembling short and accessible accounts of seasonal change from diverse authors around the world
- we are assembling empirical material on seasonal rhythms and changes to these rhythms in various institutions,
- we have designed the research to be comparable between the case studies, and we aim to publish comparative work
- we are designing workshops with research participants in the first half of 2022, to appraise and re-think seasonal cultures, incorporating science-art collaboration.
- we will have two major artworks completed - a documentary film from the Coromandel Peninsula, and a virtual reality simulation of Bergen.
- both PhD candidates are preparing monograph PhD theses, and these will be submitted within the project tenure
- we plan on convening a symposium on seasonal change with invited guests in May 2022. We are investigating conferences for a session to present our findings
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