In Vietnam, an entire multilevel governance apparatus is now engaged in furthering the climate adaptation agenda, much of it focused on the Mekong Delta. A politics of translation is at the heart of these operations, as differently situated actors reproduce, negotiate, and mobilize knowledge for adaptation in pursuit of varied objectives. In this article, I examine the role of intermediary actors that work as knowledge brokers and translators, transmitting knowledge upwards, downwards, and horizontally within this governance system, influencing adaptation practice in the process. Drawing on cross-scalar ethnographic research with Vietnamese scientists and researchers, development practitioners, agricultural extension agents, and provincial-level bureaucrats, it considers the agency these actors have in shaping the trajectory of socio-ecological change in the delta. Exploring strategies of translation and the interests they reflect, it finds that knowledge for adaptation is largely constrained by the dominant economic development agenda, where neoliberal discourses and state goals of "building socialism" intersect in defining the success of adaptation and its ideal subjects. Finally, the article identifies contestations and switch-points that occur and seeks to identify potential openings for transformative pathways to emerge.
Keywords: Climate change adaptation, intermediary actors, knowledge brokers, translation, Vietnam, Mekong Delta
How to Cite:
Weger, J., (2023) ““Nothing for Free”: Intermediary actors and cross-scalar knowledge translation for climate adaptation in the Mekong Delta”, Journal of Political Ecology 30(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/jpe.4829
- Fulbright-Hays Fellowship
- Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research
- National Science Foundation