PhD project: Taking responsibility for the climate crisis in Massachusetts: Intersections of climate action, climate justice and progressivism within the US climate movement
Tom Bell’s research is based on 15 months' ethnographic fieldwork undertaken during 2018/2019 – a period of significant growth both for the climate movement and in public concern about the climate crisis – with climate activists and social movement organisations primarily in the Greater Boston area of Massachusetts, an important hub of civic responses to the climate crisis in the USA.
Engaging with debates in the anthropology of ethics, which he brings into conversation with literature on activism, social movements and the Anthropocene, Tom’s research explores climate activists’ and organisers’ engagements with the ethical and moral dimensions of the climate crisis in the context of their work to achieve various forms of social, political and economic transformation across multiple scales.
Tom's work focuses on the interplay between moral injunctions to ‘take responsibility’ for the climate crisis, the ethical scales of climate action, discourses on urgency and emergency in relation to climate change, activism concerning climate and environmental (in)justice, the politics of progressivism, and the strategies used by organisers to build the grassroots climate movement in Massachusetts and the US. He also examines how these issues intersect with culturally rooted techniques of citizen activism and longer cultural histories of progressivism in Massachusetts, histories of social movements in the US, and American identity politics.
Tom’s research provides unique perspectives on how grassroots social movements are at the forefront of changing public narratives about climate change, articulating systemic alternatives to fossil fuel extraction and generating discourses concerning the need to centre questions of justice and equity in response to the climate crisis.
Tom is also a member of the Centre for Indigenous and Settler Colonial Studies at the University of Kent.
ESRC-funded SeNSS (South East Network for Social Sciences) studentship