dr.ir. S (Severine) van Bommel

dr.ir. S (Severine) van Bommel

Associate professor

Passionate about planetary health, I am an Associate Professor in Environmental Communication fascinated by the puzzle of how we can learn our way out of the complex social - environmental pathologies facing our increasingly interconnected and globalised world. We know that a sustainable society must limit the use of materials and energy to sustainable levels and maintain wellbeing of human social systems in relation to the biophysical world (including other species). What is less well known is how to realize this transition, set in motion and guide the transformation of one set of understandings and practices and their relational dynamics to another. Spanning the biophysical and social, my work critically examines human-environment relations and change from an environmental communication perspective drawing on insights from interpretive policy analysis, science studies and development studies.

Taking an interpretive approach to environmental communication, I see communication as the construction of meaning in interaction rather than as transfer of information. I investigate how people in interaction: 1) interpret events from their own perspectives, in light of their own experiences; 2) engage with forests, wildlife climate change and so on; and 3) act upon, shape and re-shape broader trends in policy, technology and market. The engagement with meaning and how those meanings, often plural, at times clashing, as well as with the consequences of these clashes, lies at the heart of my work. I work in an applied, interdisciplinary and collaborative manner. I have researched these topics for over 15 years mostly in developing countries.

My work is elaborated in four research themes:

1) Boundary work and doing difference well
=> How does creation of meaning in interaction 'do' difference by connecting, partially connecting or disconnecting people as well as people and their environment? With what sort of consequences?

2) Circulation of meaning in landscapes of practices
=> How do heterogeneous elements of meaning circulate? How do technologies mediate or are mediated by circulation of meaning? How do temporalities of circulation affect the emergence, transformation and persistence of sociomaterial practices?

3) Performance and orchestration of connective action and space for change
=> How to identify, understand and orchestrate communication practices in theoretically informed ways to create space for connective action and change?

4) Interpretive methods and methodology for communication research
=> How to study these interpretive, environmental communication practices well?

My publications include the edited books Forest-People Interfaces (Wageningen Academic Publishers 2012) and Forest and Nature Governance: a Practice based Approach (Springer 2013). Many of my projects are embedded in international research networks such as CCAFS (CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security); CADWAGO (international consortium on climate change adaptation and water governance) and the Interpretive Policy Analysis network whose 2014 conference I co-organised.