Sustainability Knowledge Politics: Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Transregional History of Palm Oil Sustainability Research

Evelien de Hoop (Corresponding author), Erik B.A. van der Vleuten (Corresponding author)

Onderzoeksoutput: Bijdrage aan tijdschriftTijdschriftartikelAcademicpeer review

1 Citaat (Scopus)
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So far, the field of sustainability history has insufficiently addressed the tricky politics of academic sustainability knowledge making. In response, this paper studies how scientific research on palm oil sustainability, when defining sustainability problems and solutions, enacted a postcolonial politics of difference between Southeast Asia and Europe. Iterating between quantitative database queries (2,500+ sources) and close reading, we found that voices of scientists from both regions were amply represented in palm oil sustainability research, but presented different types of narratives. Research originating from Southeast Asia predominantly foregrounded situated problems originating, experienced and to be redressed within the region itself. By contrast, diverse strands of research led by scholars from Europe addressed universalised global sustainability problems for humanity, notably global deforestation and climate change. This research framed palm oil farmers in Southeast Asia as responsible for causing and solving such problems while attributing to European actors the responsibility of ensuring Southeast Asian actors’ compliance with global sustainability standards through certification schemes. Critically, European actors were thereby acquitted of their own historical and future responsibilities, even though the latter had long deforested their own territories and contributed significantly more to climate change, played a pivotal role in establishing palm oil cultivation and trade, and constituted leading importers of palm oil in the twentieth century. To open up for more equitable and inclusive future sustainability imaginaries, we encourage historical research that studies, situates and unpacks diverse sustainability knowledges and narratives across the globe in a symmetrical manner.
Originele taal-2Engels
Pagina's (van-tot)209-245
Aantal pagina's37
TijdschriftGlobal Environment
Nummer van het tijdschrift2
StatusGepubliceerd - 15 jun. 2022


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