Sarah E. Vaughn’s primary field is the critical study of climate change. She received her B.A. in 2006 from Cornell University, majoring as a College Scholar with a focus in Anthropology, Sociology, and Inequality Studies. She was awarded a Ph.D. in 2013 from the Department of Anthropology, Columbia University. She has engaged climate change through both ethnographic and archival research of the geotechnical engineering sciences and the shifting political frameworks for climate data and services. At stake in her research is the way climate change generates problem spaces and claims to expertise. She is affiliated with the Center for Science, Technology and Medicine and The Program in Critical Theory.
I am a sociocultural anthropologist whose focus is the critical study of climate change and its expertise in the present. This concern informs my recent articles and book in progress entitled Engineering Vulnerability: In Pursuit of Climate Adaptation. The manuscript explores the weight of history on the frameworks and assemblages of climate adaptation. Each chapter tracks the responses of engineers, ordinary citizens, scientists, military personnel, disaster consultants, and humanitarian workers to climate-related flooding in Guyana, reflecting the surge in state and nongovernmental climate adaptation projects across the world. Their stories dramatize the material and institutional challenges of climate adaptation. They illustrate the historical continuities between the operations of the country’s flood infrastructures and people’s concerns about what they might gain or lose from flooding. At the same time, these stories demonstrate the historical discontinuities climate adaptation renders in Guyana, especially the failures of certain racial political formations to manage flooding in the present. More broadly, their efforts are a reminder that climate adaptation is marked by acts of care and vigilance even as people imagine futures not immune from climatic disaster.
The second book project explores the emergence of multi-sector climate services across the Caribbean. Of particular concern are the ways climate data transforms into a medium for scientific diplomacy. It highlights how Caribbean governments’ desires for climate services raise questions about the political frameworks for modeling practices, regional identity indebted to climatic forms (e.g. heat), and the creation of social indicators related to climate change.
On leave Fall 2020-Spring 2021 (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton).
In Progress. “The Afterlives of Innovation: Sea Defense, Credibility, and Climate Adaptation.”
2020. “Caribbean Technological Thought and Climate Adaptation.” Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism 24(2(62)): 110-121.
2019. "Vulnerability." In Anthropocene Unseen: A Lexicon. Edited by Cymene Howe and Anand Pandian. New York: Punctum Books.
2019. "Inundated with Facts: Flooding and the Knowledge Economies of Climate Adaptation in Guyana." In Unmasking the State: Politics, Society, and Economy in Guyana 1992-2005. Edited by Arif Bulkan and D. Alissa Trotz, pp. 479-500. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers.
2019. [Reprint]. "Disappearing Mangroves: The Epistemic Politics of Climate Adaptation in Guyana." déjà lu 32(2): 441-467.
2018. "The Political Economy of Regions: Climate Change and Dams in Guyana." Radical History Review 131: 105-125.
2017. "Imagining the Ordinary in Participatory Climate Adaptation." Weather, Climate, and Society 9(3): 533-543.
2017. "Disappearing Mangroves: The Epistemic Politics of Climate Adaptation in Guyana." Cultural Anthropology 32(2): 441-467.
2012. "Reconstructing the Citizen: Disaster, Citizenship, and Expertise in Racial Guyana." Critique of Anthropology 32(4): 359-386.
Engineering Vulnerability: In Pursuit of Climate Adaptation (in progress, Duke University Press)