Research Methods in Environmental Law
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Research Methods in Environmental Law

A Handbook

Edited by Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos and Victoria Brooks

This timely Handbook brings innovative, free-thinking and radical approaches to research methods in environmental law. With a comprehensive approach it brings together key concepts such as sustainability, climate change, activism, education and Actor-Network Theory. It considers how the Anthropocene subjects environmental law to critique, and to the needs of the variety of bodies, human and non-human, that require its protection. This much-needed book provides a theoretically informed analysis of methodological approaches in the discipline, such as constitutional analysis, rights-based approaches, spatial/geographical analysis, immersive methodologies and autoethnography, which will aid in the practical critique and re-imagining of Environmental Law.
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Chapter 14: On the relation between scholarship and action in environmental law: method, theory, change

Andreas Kotsakis

Abstract

This chapter examines the intellectual phenomenon of theoretical aversion in legal scholarship, as it specifically manifests in environmental law. It first demonstrates how a proposed turn to methodology seeks to constrain theory within the strict contours of an epistemology that serves to support the scientific aspirations of legal scholarship. This notion of theory as epistemology is in turn linked to environmental law’s overwhelming concern with controlling the relation between scholarship and action for the purpose of constituting itself as valid expert authority in the context of contemporary environmental discursive practices. Building on the critique of this view of theory as a pure research design element, the chapter articulates a different perspective, recovered from theoretical excess and inspired by the life and work of Michel Foucault, which merges the distinction between scholarship and action via the – correct – use of the metaphor of the ‘tool box’, often mishandled in Foucauldian scholarship. By reorienting this metaphor, the chapter argues that the contestation over the precise role of theory within environmental law relates to the historical evolution of the current role of the legal researcher who is expected to function solely as an expert on environmental change. The task of critical environmental law thus becomes to resist the assigned role within the established regime of environmental truth and to make novel and expansive contributions of the ‘tool box’ of environmental thought and practice.

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