cfp POLLEN18: Tangled up in blue and green: The embedded politics of labour in the making of green commodities

 Second Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN)POLLEN18: Political Ecology, the Green Economy, and Alternative Sustainabilities 20-22 June 2018 – Oslo and Akershus University College, Oslo, NorwayConference website:

Tangled up in blue and green: The embedded politics of labour in the making of green commodities

Session organisers: Ben Neimark ( and Bradley Wilson (

What does a green economy labour force look like? What work does it do, how does it organise and resist?

Recent critical scholarship has engaged the triple nexus of green/blue, bio- economies with appropriate scepticism. From the fringes to the mainstream, forms of ‘green capitalism’ have transformed our relationship and understanding of nature into ‘…nothing less than a major strategy for ecological commodification, marketization and financialization which radically intensifies and deepens the penetration of nature by capital’ (Smith 2009, 17). This deepening and widening of commodification under green capitalism includes the identification and subsequent valuation of nature into less tangible and more fungible services, information, green products and credit-based ‘natural capital’ (Bigger and Robertson 2016). As Moore (2015) suggests, such financialized ‘commodity frontiers’ develop as capital seeks new opportunities to produce and market nature under, and within, conditions of ecological crisis. Yet, even as green financialization advances, there remain large-scale investments in conventional commodities for green development such as food, fibres, forests, fashion and fuels. Indeed, running parallel to green financialization, states, financial institutions and multinationals and national elites continue to grab resource stocks (e.g., land, timber, mines) as an accumulation strategy (Fairhead et al. 2012; Corson et al. 2013). Producing commodities while also developing new financial products and services under the banner of the blue/green and bio-economy thus enables these investors to speculate and acquire future claims on these resources, to hedge against risk, and to finance bond and other financial service markets (Johnson 2014; Kay and Kenney-Lazar 2017).

While many of these “green” products and services represent an “economy of appearances” (Tsing 2000) that just may never fully materialise into any form of recognizable market (Milne and Adams 2012; Dempsey and Robertson 2012; Neimark et al 2016) their performative nature still has diverse impacts on livelihoods (Mutersbaugh 2005; Sullivan et al 2013; Homes and Cavanaugh 2016; Neimark and Wilson 2016). These effects have exacerbated tensions over who can gain, maintain and control access to resources or whose labour it is that produces green and blue economic futures (Büscher 2009; Neimark and Wilson, 2016).  What is the tangled role of ‘labour’ in making commodities legible and investable? In this session we seek papers that contribute, not only to the ways (or if?) nature is actually being commodified (see Felli 2014; Büscher and Fletcher 2016; Kay and Miles-Kenny 2017), but also extend our conversation to include labour politics in blue/green and bio-economy. More generally, we ask, what does a blue/green and bio-economy labour force look like? How are commodities within the economies produced, and what is the emerging landscape of labour politics helping to produce them?

Some issues include (non-exhaustive):

  • Green/blue & bio- economy commodity fetishism
  • Labour unions and organisation, resistance
  • De-growth/re-growth/ and jobless growth
  • Pseudo/fictitious/phantom commodities; beyond land and labour regimes
  • Commodification and frontier space (peri-)urban/rural, deep sea & outer space
  • From neoliberal and authoritarian natures to the commodification of everything
  • Commodity frontiers – production and extraction – financialization – environmental degradation – climate – crisis
  • Dis/articulation of commodity chains
  • Classic Questions – Marx and the commodity – valuation – nature – commodity chains- debates over real and formal subsumptoin
  • Alternative green economy, the ethical brandscape – new processes of disembeddeding – ideology
  • New approaches political ecologies of commodities
  • Moral economies of commodities – crisis and response – double movement – local and global responses certification
  • Farms, forests, fisheries & conservation commodities
  • Cynical consumption and CSR
  • Diverse political alliances & labour politics

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words to both Ben Neimark ( and Bradley Wilson ( before December 7th 2017. Upon acceptance, applicants will still have to register for the conference through the POLLEN website.

Lit cited:

Bigger, P & M Robertson (2017) Value is Simple. Valuation is Complex, Capitalism Nature Socialism, 28(1) 68-77.

Büscher, B. (2009). Letters of gold: enabling primitive accumulation through neoliberal conservation. Human Geography, 2(3), 91-93.

Corson, C., MacDonald, K. I., & Neimark, B. (2013). Grabbing “green”: markets, environmental governance and the materialization of natural capital. Human Geography, 6(1), 1-15.

Dempsey, J., & Robertson, M. M. (2012). Ecosystem services: Tensions, impurities, and points of engagement within neoliberalism. Progress in Human Geography, 36(6), 758-779.

Fairhead, J., Leach, M., & Scoones, I. (2012). Green Grabbing: a new appropriation of nature?. Journal of Peasant Studies, 39(2), 237-261.

Felli, R. (2014). On climate rent. Historical Materialism, 22(3-4), 251-280.

Fletcher, R., & Büscher, B. (2017). The PES conceit: Revisiting the relationship between payments for environmental services and neoliberal conservation. Ecological Economics, 132, 224-231.

Holmes, G., & Cavanagh, C. J. (2016). A review of the social impacts of neoliberal conservation: formations, inequalities, contestations. Geoforum, 75, 199-209.

Johnson, L. 2014 “Geographies of securitized catastrophe risk and the implications of climate change”, Economic Geography (90) 155-185.

Kay, K., & Kenney-Lazar, M. (2017). Value in capitalist natures: an emerging framework. Dialogues in Human Geography, 7(3), 295-309.

Milne, S., & Adams, B. (2012). Market Masquerades: uncovering the politics of community‐level payments for environmental services in Cambodia. Development and Change, 43(1), 133-158.

Moore, J. W. (2015). Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. Verso Books.

Mutersbaugh, T. (2005). Just-in-space: Certified rural products, labor of quality, and regulatory spaces. Journal of rural studies, 21(4), 389-402.

Neimark, B. D., & Wilson, B. (2015). Re-mining the collections: from bioprospecting to biodiversity offsetting in Madagascar. Geoforum, 66, 1-10.

Neimark, B., Mahanty, S., & Dressler, W. (2016). Mapping value in a ‘green’ commodity frontier: revisiting commodity chain analysis. Development and Change, 47(2), 240-265.

Smith, N. (2009). Nature as accumulation strategy. Socialist register, 43(43).

Sullivan, S., Igoe, J., & Buscher, B. (2013). Introducing nature on the move–a triptych. New Proposals: Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary Inquiry, 6(1-2), 15-19.

Tsing, A. L. (2000). Inside the economy of appearances. Public Culture, 12(1), 115-144.

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