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Emily Boyd

Emily Boyd

Professor, Docent

Emily Boyd

Quiet resistance speaks: A global literature review of the politics of popular resistance to climate adaptation interventions


  • Ana Maria Falla Vargas
  • Ebba Brink
  • Emily Boyd

Summary, in English

Despite that climate hazards are increasingly felt across the globe, there is widespread and often subtle resistance to climate adaptation interventions. However, adaptation research and practice have largely focused on overcoming barriers to implementation. By presuming adaptation programs are welcome, they miss that many people oppose or refuse to participate in them, and the politics hidden behind such resistance. We review the emerging academic literature on resistance to climate adaptation and uncover how diverse forms of adaptation resistance generate deep insights into overlooked local needs and aspirations. While it could be expected that ‘loud’ forms of resistance, such as protests, prompted some adaptation initiatives to accommodate local needs, it was surprising to see the effects of ‘quiet’ resistance. Quiet adaptation resistance in the forms of false compliance, foot-dragging, and gossip helped affected communities to stay in their territories, maintain certain farming practices, contest exclusionary urban policies, or simply assert their agency and freedom. These results reflect that adaptation has adopted a narrow approach to development that omits the multiple and underlying causes of vulnerability – many of which are evident to those affected. We argue that even when such acts do not directly improve material conditions, they represent an alternative political engagement to reimagine adaptation considering the needs of marginalised groups beyond the participatory and community development approach. This article provides concrete examples of how quiet resistance to adaptation speaks that can help development practitioners and policy makers to better understand the limitations of adaptation initiatives and their implications for effective local security in the face of climate change. Political accountability to adaptation-targeted populations could improve adaptation investments, making them more relevant, socially sustainable, and responsive to local needs.


  • Department of Sociology of Law
  • LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
  • LU Profile Area: Nature-based future solutions
  • Lund university sustainability forum
  • BECC: Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate

Publishing year





World Development



Document type

Journal article




  • Law and Society
  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Contestation
  • Development
  • Political engagement
  • Power
  • Resistance
  • Vulnerability




  • Everyday forms of resistance to state adaptation regulation: An ethnographic study of responses in informal settlements
  • Everyday forms of resistance to state adaptation regulation: An ethnographic study of responses in informal settlements (RESIST)


  • ISSN: 0305-750X