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Frances Butler


Cuckmere Haven.jpg

UCL Department of Geography
University College London
North-West Wing
Gower Street


Twitter: @FrancesButler1

Professor Andrew Barry (UCL Geography)
Dr Lisa Vanhala (UCL School of Public Policy)


Locating a responsible state: climate governance as a material politics

The climate change crisis has brought criticism that the nation state “has been found wanting” (Hulme 2009 p 310). Whilst central governments have struggled to act effectively, other actors, such as local officials have responded (Bulkeley and Schroeder 2011) and yet climate governance studies have overlooked what these developments mean for the notion of state responsibility. Recognising the epistemological value of studying the state through Foucaldian governmental practices identifiable through investigating ‘state effects’ (Mitchell 1991), the research will ask: how, where and why do local officials respond to climate impacts? While governmentality scholars have observed the state ‘responsibilizing’ citizens, this study reverses the analytical focus to explore what responsibility still remains with the state. The research is grounded in a material politics ontology which understands that humans are not the only actors and attends to the politically productive potential of technologies and vibrant matter (Barry 2001, 2013; Bennett 2010). Through in-depth interviews and ethnographic study, the research will interrogate local state responsibility within a material politics of climate governance in Southern Louisiana. Inhabiting the space of disappearing coastal areas are oil and gas wells, carbon emissions, Fox News, rising sea water, displaced people, habitats and culture, shrimp fishing and vast sandbanks under construction. These forces transform relative to each other, jostling for salience. By exploring local state responses to these forces, the project aims to make a conceptual contribution to ways of understanding the state.

This research is supported by the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South.


Academic Background

PhD candidate, Department of Geography, University College London (UCL), 2016 – ongoing (part-time)

MSc Climate Change Management, Birkbeck College London, 2014
Dissertation: Decarbonising electricity generation: a place for regulation?

Joint winner of Birkbeck Sustainable Futures Prize, 2014

LL.B Law, Bristol University, 1981


Work Experience

Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and NI), Chair, 2017 – ongoing

Liberty (NCCL), Chair 2010 – 2017

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, specialist adviser, 2001 – 2005 & 2007 – 2010

Equality and Human Rights Commission, policy adviser, 2007 – 2009

Home Affairs Committee, House of Commons, specialist adviser, 2006

Government Task Force on establishing the Equality and Human Rights Commission, member, 2003 –04

Institute for Public Policy Research, visiting research fellow, 2000 – 2005

Harbottle & Lewis, partner and lawyer, 1989-1999

Hunton & Williams, New York, Washington DC & Richmond Va, associate, 1987-1989

1 King’s Bench Walk, barrister, 1982-1986


Professional Qualifications

Law Society of England and Wales (1990)

New York Bar (1989)

Bar of England and Wales (1982)


Conferences and Publications

Academic Conferences

Hydroresponsibility: materials and the state in the face of sea level rise, paper presented at RGS#2019 in Session Title: Water matters: infringing the water-society divide through interdisciplinary engagement, Hydrosocial responsibilities and socio-hydrology, 29 August 2019, London. See paper [here] and slides [here].

Locating a responsible state in climate governance, paper presented at RGS#2018 in Session Title: The (In)coherent State: Perspectives from Within, 29 August 2018, Cardiff. See paper [here] and slides [here].

Locating a responsible state in a politics in transition, paper presented at AAG #2018 in Session Title: Politics of State-Change: Matter and Transition, 10 – 14 April 2018, New Orleans. See paper [here] and slides [here].

Policy and Legal Publications

Rights for Real: Older People, Human Rights and the CEHR, 2006, Age Concern

"Building a Human Rights Culture" in Harvey C (ed) Human Rights in the Community: Rights as Agents for Change, 2005, Hart pp 63-78

Human Rights: who needs them? Using Human Rights in the Voluntary Sector, 2004, ippr

Human Rights Protection: Methods and Effectiveness, (ed) 2002, Kluwer

Human Rights for the New Millennium, (ed) 2000, Kluwer

Airline Franchising: Some EC Law Aspects in Dagtoglou P, Balfour J & Mirmina S (eds) 1995, European Air Law Association, Ant. N Sakkoulas & Kluwer, vol 9, pp 45-57

Determining safe emission levels for carcinogens: the Vinyl Chloride decision (with Turner T Smith Jr) Journal of Environmental Law, 1989, OUP vol 1 no 1 pp 77-79