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Keywords:

  • climate change;
  • actor-network theory;
  • land use;
  • organizing;
  • materiality;
  • adaptation;
  • Antwerp;
  • Belgium

Abstract

Although climate change appears to be a relatively new public issue, it has not emerged onto a tabula rasa; it affects ‘traditional’ policy sectors. How, then, does this ‘new issue’ interact with established organizational processes, and how is climate change ‘operationalized’ in local practice? Since major events linked to climate change include such things as desertification, climatic migrations, floods and landslides, one might assume that one of its main implications would be a substantial change in land use, or at least a transformation in land organization and management. This article explores the implementation of a ‘flood control area’ as an adaptation practice in the face of climate change. What theoretical and empirical tools should analysis adopt to account for the multiple actors, types of knowledge, artefacts, socio-technical systems and governance configurations engaged in developing such practices? In other words, to what extent does climate change become a reorganizing category? This article adopts a theoretical approach inspired by actor-network theory and considers adaptation practice not as a standardized top-down solution, but as the result of specific local connections among actors, materials and discourses. The analysis suggests that climate change is indeed a reorganizing category, but one that depends on the specific local materializations of the adaptation measure.