Situated adaptation: Tackling the production of vulnerability through transformative action in Sri Lanka's Dry Zone

Harry Quealy, Julian Yates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing attention to the production of vulnerability across scales in Sri Lanka, we contribute to knowledge of why certain people and social groups are vulnerable. We build our contribution on the theoretical application of ‘situated adaptation’. A situated analytical approach identifies, assesses, and responds to the everyday realities and politics of those living in climate changed environments. It highlights uneven geographies of vulnerability and opportunity, while identifying new imaginations and possibilities for transformative action that counter the production of vulnerability. We illustrate the utility of ‘situated adaptation’ by filling an empirical gap relating to experiences of political-economic and environmental change in Sri Lanka’s Dry Zone. We detail situated experiences by drawing on field research in the Anuradhapura District, revealing how the lives and livelihoods of farmer participants are structured by a productivity-vulnerability paradox. We demonstrate how a prevalent adaptation-development paradigm (whereby development and adaptation programs co-exist in theory and practice) is unable to address the structural drivers of vulnerability in Sri Lanka’s Dry Zone. A situated adaptation approach both explains why this is the case and highlights opportunities for alternative transformative actions, potentially identifying a more democratic and egalitarian politics of co-determining socionatural change.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102374
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Early online date1 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • Climate change
  • Climate politics
  • Climate-resilient development
  • Situated adaptation
  • Transformation
  • Vulnerability


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