Adaptation regimes: confronting climate change and environmental crisis in Bangladesh

Kasia Paprocki is a PhD Candidate in Development Sociology at Cornell University. She has worked in Bangladesh for over a decade, where her work has focused on the political economy of development and agrarian change

Bangladesh holds a prominent position in global climate change discourse. It is frequently described as the ‘world’s most vulnerable country to climate change,’ raising the spectre of Bangladesh underwater, wiped off the map by rising sea levels. This crisis narrative obscures the ways in which environmental and social interventions have already transformed the landscape many times over (as well as the ways that local communities are already addressing those transformations).

Today, development in Bangladesh is defined through an adaptation regime, a socially and historically specific configuration of power that produces a set of possible interventions in anticipation of climate change. For the rural poor, these interventions entail dispossession from agrarian livelihoods and outmigration. As this shift contributes to the expansion of production of export commodities such as garments and frozen shrimp, the threat of climate change and its associated migrations is reframed as an opportunity for development and growth.

This presentation draws on more than two years of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork to show how a variety of actors in rural Bangladesh, the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, and international agencies produce, experience, and contest this adaptation regime and its associated social and environmental transformations.