IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Performing carbon’s materiality: the production of carbon offsets and the framing of exchange

Listed author(s):
  • David M Lansing
Registered author(s):

    In this paper I provide a first-hand account of a trip designed to verify the existence of a carbon forestry offset in Costa Rica. In so doing, I reflect on how various actors become the stabilized calculative agents of scientists, state bureaucrats, indigenous leaders, GPS devices, trees, signs, and field reports that such trips require. In addition, I show how various articulations of these actors, and their emergent agencies, simultaneously maintains both the carbon offset as a commodity object as well as a field of action and communication that allows for such an object to be exchanged. In short, I consider the verification of an offset as a performance. Doing so, I examine the agency of some actors in this process, and account for the uneven power relations inherent in such a process. Specifically, I advance three arguments. First, the agency of actors is constituted, in part, by various calculative devices, which themselves simultaneously occupy an unstable position of being both a material object and an abstraction. Second, the normative power of the performance I witnessed derives from its relation to the abject: spaces and ways of being that are unintelligible to the logics of offsetting that nonetheless serve to further reiterate the need for an offset’s calculative frame. Third, performing an offset is a self-reflexive process, and it is through the self-reflexivity of actors involved that the qualities of ‘the forest’ emerge in ways that confound the stability of an offset commodity. In this way, the biophysical qualities of the forest are not necessarily barriers to its commodification. Instead, it is the reflexive practices inherent in performing ‘the economic’ that can serve to confound the emergence of the commodified forest. Keywords: performativity, carbon offsets, materiality, commodification, power

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    File Function: abstract
    Download Restriction: Fulltext access restricted to subscribers, see for details

    File URL:
    File Function: main text
    Download Restriction: Fulltext access restricted to subscribers, see for details

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Pion Ltd, London in its journal Environment and Planning A.

    Volume (Year): 44 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 204-220

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:44:y:2012:i:1:p:204-220
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:44:y:2012:i:1:p:204-220. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Neil Hammond)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.