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Climate Crisis and Indigenous Storywork: Decolonising International Climate Change Discourse and Policy (TILETT_AMA23CDCC)

   Faculty of Arts and Humanities

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  Dr Rebecca Tillett, Prof Heike Schroeder  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project


Indigenous experiences of climate crisis, driven by colonisation, settler colonialism, and neoliberal development, have inflicted profound environmental change upon Indigenous peoples across the globe. Forced to develop practices to adapt to sustained anthropogenic climate impacts, Indigenous traditional ecological knowledges (TEK) remain resilient into the 2020s across geographies.  

Contemporary Indigenous storywork reflects intimate understandings of, and guidance for, sustainable human relationships with the natural world. Contemporary Indigenous Climate Scholars are also developing collaborative international methodological frameworks within 21st century Indigenous climate change discourse. These frameworks can support the decolonisation of climate change discourse, policy, and scholarship as we move further into the 2020s, and guide how climate scientists and scholars can respectfully, ethically and collaboratively engage with Indigenous TEK and storywork. 

This interdisciplinary PhD will explore the relationships between Indigenous storywork, TEK, and climate resilience.  

Research methodology 

The project will compare published traditional Indigenous stories with storyworks emerging in the 2020s, and engage with a range of significant sources, including current locally-told Indigenous oral stories, personal testimonies of Indigenous climate activists, the fictional works of contemporary Indigenous writers since 2015, plus story maps, visioning exercises and other participatory approaches. 

This project addresses key questions about how Indigenous storywork can guide local, national, and international climate policy decisions. This project considers how Indigenous understandings of the rights of diverse other-than-human beings can steer future international climate policy decisions and legislative action, including the potential of an international expansion of environmental laws informed by Indigenous TEK, to enshrine the rights of the natural world in law.  

Through creative engagement with 21st century Indigenous storytellers and climate activists, this project will diversify and decolonise climate change discourse to widen public understanding of more sustainable ways of living and being beyond conventional data-based scientific approaches. 


The student will have full access to the training programmes from both Faculties involved, including skills workshops and interdisciplinary research training seminars. 

Person specification 

Comparative Literary Studies, Climate Change/Environment and Development Studies. 

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Critical Decade for Climate Change programme. For more information about the programme and details of how to apply, please visit 

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please visit the UEA website 

The start date for this project is 1st October 2023.

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Critical Decade for Climate Change programme, which will award PhD studentship funding from the Leverhulme Trust and UEA’s Faculties of Social Sciences and Science.

Successful candidates will be awarded a PhD studentship that pays tuition fees, a stipend (£17,668 p.a. for 2022/23), and funding to support research costs. Studentship funding is only available to applicants eligible for ‘Home’ fees status, including UK nationals and most EU nationals with ‘settled’ and ‘pre-settled’ status.

Further details of the Critical Decade programme can be found at:


Tillett, Rebecca (2020) The Necessity of Lived Resistance: Reading Leslie Marmon Silko’s Gardens in the Dunes in an era of rapid climate change. Studies in American Indian Literatures, 32 (1-2, Spring-Summer 2020). pp. 188-208. ISSN 0730-3238

Tillett, Rebecca (2016) 'Sand Lizard warned her children to share': Philosophies of Gardening and Exchange in Gardens in the Dunes. In: Leslie Marmon Silko. Studies in Contemporary North American Fiction. pp. 219–239. Bloomsbury Academic, London. ISBN 9781472530608

Tillett, Rebecca (2018) Otherwise, Revolution! Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead. Bloomsbury Academic, New York. ISBN 9781623567873

Schroeder, H. and N.C. González (2019) Bridging Knowledge Divides: The Case of Indigenous Ontologies of Territoriality and REDD+. Forest Policy and Economics 100: 198-206

Schroeder, H. (2010), Agency in International Climate Negotiations: The Case of Indigenous Peoples and Avoided Deforestation, International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 10, 4, 317–332
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