The making of climate publics: Eco-homes as material devices of publicity

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Marres, Noortje (2007)

This article seeks to enrich material perspectives on environmental citizenship by considering current deployments of eco-homes as devices for public involvement in climate change. It discusses environmental awareness campaigns that center on the home in the light of a warning voiced in political theory, that attempts to locate citizenship in “the world of things” might mean that this category loses its distinctiveness. These campaigns, it proposes, define public involvement with climate change along socio-material lines, as they suggest that people participate in the public by virtue of their domestic habits. For this reason, the domestication of citizenship cannot be equated with its privatization in this case, as that would be to uphold a classic republican understanding of the public, which is precisely rendered problematic in the context of climate change and the making of low- carbon economies. However, the paper also questions materialist understandings of environmental citizenship, by pointing out that the publicity device of the eco- home equally enables the virtualization, that is, the “de-materialization,” of environmental issues. Thus, awareness instruments like carbon calculators format public involvement with climate change as an operation upon domestic energy data. Finally, the paper discusses how eco-homes can also be put to use as devices of “de-citizenization,” absolving domestic subjects from environmental reponsibilities. Seeking to come to terms with these various conflicting deployments of eco-homes, the paper concludes by emphasizing the importance of eco-homes as experimental sites of issue articulation.
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