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Political Ecology

An interdisciplinary approach at the interface of political economy, anthropology, geography and ecology. It seeks to provide understandings of socio-environmental issues with an explicit concern with unequal power relations and both material and discursive struggles shaping those issues, thereby avoiding simplistic and normative explanations of environmental change and environmental conflicts. Since its naissance in the 1980s it has extended its initial focus on the South – especially on environmental narratives of environmental degradation and the impacts of resource exploitation and conservation initiatives on local communities – to broader socio-environmental issues, including in the North: from urban, celebrity, or consumption political ecologies, to the impacts of neoliberal environmentalism as well research providing critical insights regarding the discourses of sustainable development and ecological modernization.

Examples of research by CLOSER members

  • Biofuel: the political ecology of biofuel land use; contested meanings of ‘appropriate land for expansion’ and ‘beneficial biofuel’; new territorializations and landscapes; impacts on local communities; biofuels and environmental policy.
  • Conservation: neoliberal conservation; preservation versus conservation; local impacts of conservation; human and environmental security; global commons; commodification of nature; geopolitics of conservation; environmentalism of the poor.
  • Development: discourses of development and modernity; postcolonial critique; developmentalism and the ‘environment-development dichotomy’; resource geopolitics.
  • Land use: agro-strategies and territorialization; contested meanings of land;  drivers of agricultural expansion; deforestation and competing meanings of vegetation.
  • Lusophone: political ecologies of the Portuguese-speaking countries – different socio-economic contexts but elastic affinity through culture and language shaping socio-environmental issues.

Suggested readings:

Bryant R and Bailey S. (1997) Third World political ecology, New York: Routledge.

Bryant R (ed). (2015) The International Handbook of Political Ecology, Cheltenham: Elgar.

Büscher B, Dressler W and Fletcher R (eds). (2014) NatureTM Inc. Environmental Conservation in the Neoliberal Age, Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.

Peet R, Robbins P and Watts M. (2011) Global Political Ecology, London and New York: Routledge.

Robbins P. (2004) Political ecology : a critical introduction, Malden, MA: Blackwell.