Transboundary communities of commoning in environmental governance

Resource scarcity and increasingly prevalent disasters that cannot be contained within jurisdictional boundaries are bringing the territorial ambitions of nation-states into growing tension with conservation agendas. As the intersecting megatrends of urbanisation, climate change and neoliberal globalisation are depleting planetary resources and incubating crises at a rate that is outpacing our combined capacities to adapt to a changing biosphere, environmental governance is being recast as a problem that requires transnational solidarity and global action. The inability of national governance regimes around the world to deal with regional instability arising from environmental conflict and human displacement is ushering in new networks of non-state actors that animate around the destruction, commodification and conservation of shared resources. These alternative networked geographies of environmental governance, in reframing cross-border crises as symptoms of wider scales of socioecological transformations, are rendering the border fluid, flexible, and less significant.

This presentation is framed around what I call “transboundary communities of commoning” to describe the emerging networked geographies of environmental governance that are reconstituting social and material constructions of the border. I will consider how shifting discourses about the (geo)political terrain of environmental governance are being leveraged by diverse actors to situate gendered, class, indigenous, eco-religious/spiritual, urban and rural poor claims to the ecological commons within broader sustainable development agendas and cooperative conservation platforms. These transboundary environmental networks are breaking down borders that produce and perpetuate differential cognitive understandings of issues such as socioecological justice and equity of access to, and ownership of, common pool resources. Consideration of these transboundary communities of commoning across organisational levels, ranging from grassroots and neighbourhood associations through to the city, country and regional/international levels, can lend insights into the limits of, and prospects for, alternative participatory pathways to transboundary environmental governance.


Biographical statement

My research interests broadly focus on intersections between urban and regional governance in the context of human conflict and environmental change. These have developed through my sustained professional and personal engagement with environmental and political transformation in the Southeast Asian region. I have conducted field-based research on issues of decentralisation, conflict resolution, environmental disaster governance, urban change and citizenship and belonging in Indonesia since 1999, and I am a Permanent Resident of Singapore, where my children were born.

I am currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. Before joining ARI, I taught at Deakin University and Charles Darwin University in Australia. I have held visiting research fellowships in Indonesia at both the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (Jakarta) and Ar-Raniry Institut Agama Islam Negeri (Banda Aceh), which afforded institutional support while I wrote my monograph, Rebellion and Reform in Indonesia: Jakarta’s Security and Autonomy Policies in Aceh (Routledge, 2009). The process of co-editing my most recent book, Crossing Borders: Governing Environmental Disasters in a Global Urban Age in Asia and the Pacific (Springer, 2018), helped me to think through theoretical dimensions of my emerging research on transboundary environmental governance, which is supported by a Singapore government Social Sciences Research Council grant, led by David Taylor and Jonathan Rigg (MOE2016-SSRTG-068).  


Dr. Miller's speech will be introduced by Dr. David Newman.