Trickster carbon: Stories, science, and postcolonial interventions for climate justice

Anita Girvan

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This article proposes the idea of the trickster figure as a way to account for the shifting material, and cultural properties of carbon in the cultural politics of climate change. Combining scientific understandings of allotropy in chemistry-describing the property of certain elements to manifest in various highly diverse forms-and the insights of Caribbean trickster stories, trickster carbon enables novel understandings of the multiple workings and effects of carbon as a material and cultural element. Rather than granting 'carbon' a singular seemingly-scientific meaning or reducing carbon to a singular problem that master human agents can ever definitively trap or sequester, this notion allows us to view carbon's unique ability to shape-shift in a variety of contexts and for myriad agendas. Understanding carbon in this way provides more than simply a theoretical or imaginative 'romp'; rather, this lens enables both a critique of the ways in which carbon is mobilized in practice as a profit-generating tool of colonial capture and also a generative opening for understanding carbon's potential as a connector to more transformative associations and postcolonial politics. As an ambivalent and paradoxical figure, trickster carbon offers a powerful method of cultural way-finding through the urgent concern of climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1038-1054
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Political Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Carbon
  • Cultural politics of climate change
  • Decolonial
  • Postcolonial
  • STS
  • Stories
  • Trickster


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