Form Transition: Decarbonization Beyond Settler Modernity
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CitationMatchett, Jennifer. 2021. Form Transition: Decarbonization Beyond Settler Modernity. Master's thesis, Harvard Graduate School of Design.
AbstractRecent discourse about climate change and the spotlight it has put on global energy systems have raised calls for new relationships to energy under a variety of open-ended terms: decarbonization, energy transition, green economy, etc. Following architectural theorist Elise Iturbe [and others], this project understands such calls for energy transition as a deeper contradiction in the structures of global modernity as not just dependent on fossil fuels but in fact shaped by their logic, perpetuated through practices, norms, and institutions in a self-replicating carbon form.
Carbon form works to name carbon modernity as form inclusive of the cultural, economic and political conditions of social life sedimented into a spatial algorithm made possible by a certain source of energy, though not dependent on its continued usage. Thus, as Iturbe writes, “if solar panels are increasing the value of a real estate object, in a precarious neoliberal economy, that is carbon form” – that is, it is not just decarbonization of energy infrastructure but the dismantling of carbon form itself that is needed to break the structural norms of carbon modernity. Drawing on indigenous epistemologies, critical feminist studies, decolonial theory and situated entanglement, this thesis identifies carbon modernity not just as carbon form but as form shaped and maintained by the violent legacies of settler colonialism, and argues that dismantling cycles of extraction and exploitation – settler form – requires form transition. Form transition must be messier terrain than energy transition, by design. Bound up in form are affective orientations, electrical wires, invisible signals, concretes, silicones, borders, bodies and world-views. A turn to form transition demands experimentation in methodology and praxis.
This project contemplates form transition through a multiyear engagement with a collective indigenous initiative tending to climate change planning at home in the Yukon Territory, Canada – a landscape where the impacts of climate change and questions of conservation are taken up in different ways by the First Nation and State bodies that co-govern the territory’s lands and resources. Highlighting aspects of methodology, process and results, the project reflects on epistemological frameworks supporting settler form and those needed to transcend it.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368122