This presentation will excavate the role, function and practices of community within Transition, a prominent grassroots environmentalist movement. It does so to pursue a quest for understanding if, how, and in what ways, community-based environmental movements are ‘political’. Ecological modernist accounts often take a positive, productive view of community-based environmental movements. Post-political literature on the same empirical examples is more critical, yet can tend towards the dismissive too. Theoretically then, this presentation seeks to find a critical and fair way to account for grassroots environmental movements such as Transition, without naively praising, or dismissively writing them off. When community-based low carbon initiatives are dismissed, this is often based on the perception that the crucial community aspect tends to be a settled, static and reified condition of (human) togetherness. However community—both in theory and practice—is not destined to be so. This presentation collects and evaluates data from two large research projects on the Transition movement. It takes this ethnographic evidence together with lessons from post-political theory, to outline the capacious, diverse and progressive forms of community that exists within the movement. Doing so, it argues against a blanket post-political diagnosis of community transitions, and opens up, yet again, the consequences of the perceptions and prejudices one has about community are more than mere theoretical posturing.
Gerald Taylor Aiken is a postdoc in Geography at Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces at the University of Luxembourg. His research interests surround the role of community in the transition to low carbon futures. He has published on the matter in, among others, Political Geography and Local Environment.