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Human Development &
Capability Association

Multi-Disciplinary and People-Centred



University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK, 2 July - 4 July 2019

Submission deadline: 12 February 2019

Jorge C. Llopis, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Mittelstrasse 43, 3012 Bern, Switzerland, and Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Hallerstrasse 12, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
Carla Gomes,Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon, Av. Professor Aníbal de Bettencourt 9, 1600-189 Lisboa, Portugal
Flurina Schneider, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Mittelstrasse 43, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

Beginning with the seminal work of Amartya Sen throughout the 1980s (Sen 1979; 1992), with further conceptualisation by Martha Nussbaum (Nussbaum 2000) and many others (Robeyns 2005; Holland 2014), the Capabilities Approach (CA) has been evolving considerably and extending its scope as a conceptual framework for social research. In the last decade, the Environmental Justice (EJ) community has been increasingly suggesting the resort to capabilities as a focus for activist struggles and research endeavours (Schlosberg 2007; Ballet et al. 2013; Holland 2014; Martin 2017; Day 2017). Furthermore, the original focus of capabilities on human well-being has been recently theorised in its relation to EJ (Edwards et al. 2016).

Criticism on the arguably individualistic stance of the original CA has triggered the development of another literature strand - Community Capabilities - either as the sort of collective capabilities needed to support and further enhance individuals’ capabilities (Evans 2002), or as a different scale of capabilities in itself (Schlosberg and Carruthers 2010). In addition, Nussbaum and others have been discussing ways of considering the capabilities of non-humans (Nussbaum 2011; Schlosberg 2013), or that of future generations through the lens of inter-generational justice (Page 2007).

Addressing current environmental challenges, such as loss of biodiversity and climate change, will require a profound societal transformation towards sustainability. In doing so, it is critical to prevent further deprivation of human capabilities, and analyse possible ways of enhancing them. The CA can thus offer new perspectives on contemporary EJ struggles, such as those around nature conservation (Martin 2017), energy poverty and justice (Day et al. 2016; Bartiaux et al. 2018), or climate change and adaptation (Schlosberg 2012; Holland 2017). However, while these recent developments point to the relevance of the CA for exploring EJ issues, the potential for empirical application of the capabilities concept, either on individuals, communities or beyond, has remained underexplored to this date.

With the aim of bridging this gap, this session will especially welcome empirical work drawing on the CA to analyse EJ problematics and struggles. We seek to gather examples of empirical research undertaken across different geographies, disciplines and methodologies. Nonetheless, we are also keen to explore contributions that further elaborate on the significance of the CA for EJ pursuits at a conceptual level.

Submission: If you are interested in contributing a paper to this session, please send your abstract (300 words) to Jorge Llopis ( and Carla Gomes ( by 12 February 2019.

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