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Lecture on Discourse, Policy and the Environment: Public controversies, depliticization, and the politics of UK airport capacity

Wednesday 24 June, 6.00pm, Julian Study Centre Room 3.02

David Howarth (University of Essex) and Steve Griggs (De Montfort University) will be giving a talk on discourse, policy and the environment: public controversies, depoliticization, and the politics of UK airport capacity.

In 2010, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition placed a moratorium on airport expansion in the South-East of England. In office, however, it has faced a sustained political campaign from supporters of the aviation industry and expansion. Indeed, in September 2012 this campaign led to the appointment of the Davies Commission on airport capacity.

Howarth and Griggs’ paper critically evaluates the work of the Davies Commission, which was widely interpreted as an attempt to remove aviation from the political realm and generate an ‘evidence-based consensus.’ Analysing the logics of depoliticisation both within and outside the formal arenas of the Davies Commission, the paper undertakes a detailed analysis of the struggles between different actors and coalitions to construct the boundaries of the political, particularly in the domain of aircraft noise pollution.

In so doing, they draw upon political discourse theory and the logics of critical explanation to examine the interplay between depoliticisation and repoliticisation, as well as the link between strategies of depoliticisation and what they have termed the provision of ‘ideological cover.’ The paper concludes with an assessment of the challenges facing the Davies Commission, the Coalition and campaigners, while considering the political effectiveness and democratic implications of strategies of depoliticisation in addressing such ‘wicked policy issues’ as aviation expansion.

The lecture is being offered during a week of doctoral training workshops supported by the ESRC Advanced Training Initiative 2014, entitled 'Social Studies of Environment & Sustainability' taking place within the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of East Anglia, in collaboration with the School of Environmental Science and the School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies.

For further information contact Simon Watts, 01603 591295 or email