Bernice Maxton-Lee

I am fascinated with big socio-environmental problems. To understand them I look at individual identities (or ‘subjectivities‘), and how they interact with assumptions, habits, understandings and expectations at different levels (ie personal, cultural and intergenerational), to build a pattern of action and reaction.

(That’s mostly Gramsci and Žižek – a good starting point is here (Gramsci) and here (Žižek)).

It is important to pay attention to context: the when is a vital part of understanding the what, and the whens influence the subjectivities of the whats.

Sounds great: what does that mean?

For example: my own current environmental subjectivity is constructed from my identity as a white citizen of a liberal democratic, European society. I spent my childhood in the mountains and my early adulthood (and a big chunk of present adulthood) in Southeast Asia, which influence (among other things like a love for all kinds of Asian cuisine) what I think of as nature and environmental degradation.

Credit Graeme Maxton 2010


This photograph shows some key identifiers in my own subjectivity: a young, tree-hugging woman with a sense of fun to balance the seriousness of environmental analysis. These subjectivities, how I see myself, interact with how other people see me and their expectations and understandings of environment, politics, tree-hugging, feminism, age, culture and history.


These sorts of interacting elements on a much bigger scale combine to make a fluid context in which economic development policies are built, and climate change tactics negotiated. What Norway expects of and understands about Brazil, strongly influences their rainforest policy. What Indonesia expects of and understands about rich countries’ historical interest in their sovereign, natural resources, influences how they respond to conservation interventions. How I frame these situations, influences to some degree what the reader expects from me, from my analysis, and even to an extent from Norway, Brazil, Indonesia and conservation.

In the coming weeks I will apply contextural analysis to my own environmental subjectivities, challenging my historical environmental assumptions, expectations and understandings through the lens of my current subjectivity.

Find me on LinkedIn.