Final CfP NGM2019 – Agency, Institutions, and Empirics in Environmentality Studies

** With apologies for cross-posting **

Agency, Institutions, and Empirics in Environmentality Studies
Call for Papers, 8th Nordic Geographers’ Meeting (NGM), Sustainable Geography – Geographies of Sustainability
Trondheim, Norway, 16-19 June 2019
Conference website:

Session organizers: Connor J. Cavanagh,1 Tor A. Benjaminsen,1 Rob Fletcher2
1 Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric), Norwegian University of Life Sciences
2 Sociology of Development and Change, Wageningen University, the Netherlands
Abstract deadline: 10 December 2018

In human geography and political ecology, the last three decades have witnessed sustained interest with the ways in which Michel Foucault’s notion of ‘governmentality’ pertains (or does not) to the intertwined governance of human communities and the (bio)physical environment. Following key contributions by Luke (1995, 1999), Agrawal (2005), Fletcher (2010), and others, it might be said that these and similar inquiries have since led to the formation of an implicit sub-field of ‘green governmentality’ or ‘environmentality’ studies. Not least, research in this domain has recently been reinvigorated by a new wave of interest into the “multiple environmentalities” (Fletcher 2017) at work within efforts to address contemporary environment and development challenges, as well as how these may intersect, synergize, or even contradict each other within a variety of distinct historical and geographical conjunctures (see also Singh 2013; Youdelis 2013; Bluwstein 2017; Cavanagh 2018). 

Many of these studies have greatly enriched our understanding both of how power operates in and through the governance of the environment, as well as how distinct types of “environmental subjects” (Agrawal 2005) can be produced and reproduced over space and time. In doing so, however, they also raise a number of second-order political and methodological questions, which arguably warrant a renewed phase of explicit discussion and reflection. Indeed, the political stakes of these studies are perhaps especially relevant for political ecology if we conceive of the latter as an “explicitly normative” field of inquiry, concerned not only with “the hatchet” of analysis and critique, but also with “planting the seed” of alternative social and ecological relations (e.g. Robbins 2012: 13, see also Cavanagh and Benjaminsen 2017). Can scholars of environmentality, for instance, offer a more robust or detailed theory of individual and collective agency in the pursuit of such alternative ‘seeds’? How do Foucaultian insights into subject formation and “the conduct of conduct” complicate our understanding of both ‘resistance’ or other ‘responses from below’ (e.g. Hall et al. 2015) within the workings of multiple environmentalities? What is the role of variegated institutional arrangements – whether statutory or customary, formal or informal – in mediating, constraining, or enabling diverse environmentalities and the scope of responses to these? Most pressingly, perhaps, how should we conceive the role of historically and geographically diverse empirical data or knowledge in environmentality studies, and where might such knowledge be most productively reasserted as primarily the source or catalyst rather than the object of theoretical reflection?

Seeking to contribute to these ongoing discussions and debates, we invite paper proposals engaging the above questions and/or related methodological, political, and conceptual foci. Relevant topics might include, amongst others, the following:

  • ·      Methodology and the philosophy of science in environmentality studies
  • ·      Dialogues and debates between or across critical realism, “critical institutionalism” (Cleaver 2012; Hall et al. 2014), and Foucaultian social science
  • ·      Geographical and historical variegation in the workings of multiple governmentalities or environmentalities
  • ·      Critical perspectives on institutions and agency in Foucaultian theory and analysis
  • ·      Interactions between multiple environmentalities across divergently produced scales, spaces, and places
  • ·      Agency, ‘resistance’, counter-conduct or parrhesia (e.g. Legg 2018), and other ‘responses from below’ (Hall et al. 2015)
  • ·      Politics and “explicitly normative” (Robbins 2012) argumentation or analysis vis-à-vis Foucaultian theory and philosophy

Please send abstracts of approximately 250 words to Connor Joseph Cavanagh ( by 10 December 2018. Authors will be notified about the status of their submission as soon as possible thereafter.


Agrawal, A. (2005). Environmentality: technologies of government and the making of subjects. Durham: Duke University Press.

Bluwstein, J. (2017). Creating ecotourism territories: Environmentalities in Tanzania’s community-based conservation. Geoforum83, 101-113.

Cavanagh, C. J. (2018). Political ecologies of biopower: diversity, debates, and new frontiers of inquiry. Journal of Political Ecology25(1), 402-425.

Cavanagh, C. J., & Benjaminsen, T. A. Political ecology, variegated green economies, and the foreclosure of alternative sustainabilities. Journal of Political Ecology24(1), 200-216.

Cleaver, F. (2012). Development through bricolage: Rethinking institutions for natural resource management. London: Routledge.

Fletcher, R. (2010). Neoliberal environmentality: towards a poststructuralist political ecology of the conservation debate. Conservation and society8(3), 171-181.

Fletcher, R. (2017). Environmentality unbound: Multiple governmentalities in environmental politics. Geoforum85, 311-315.

Hall, K., Cleaver, F., Franks, T., & Maganga, F. (2014). Capturing critical institutionalism: A synthesis of key themes and debates. The European Journal of Development Research26(1), 71-86.

Hall, R., Edelman, M., Borras Jr, S. M., Scoones, I., White, B., & Wolford, W. (2015). Resistance, acquiescence or incorporation? An introduction to land grabbing and political reactions ‘from below’. Journal of Peasant Studies42(3-4), 467-488.

Luke, T.W. 1995. On environmentality: geo-power and eco-knowledge in the discourses of contemporary environmentalism. Cultural Critique 31: 57-81.

Luke, T.W. 1999. Environmentality as green governmentality. In Darier, E. (ed.). Discourses of the environment. Oxford: Blackwell. Pp. 121-151.

Legg, S. (2018). Subjects of truth: Resisting governmentality in Foucault’s 1980s. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Robbins, P. (2012). Political ecology: a critical introduction. Second edition. Oxford: Wily-Blackwell.

Singh, N. M. (2013). The affective labor of growing forests and the becoming of environmental subjects: Rethinking environmentality in Odisha, India. Geoforum47, 189-198.

Youdelis, M. (2013). The competitive (dis)advantages of ecotourism in Northern Thailand. Geoforum50, 161-171.

Dr. Connor Joseph Cavanagh
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Department of International Environment and Development Studies
Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)
NMBU Staff Profile | Google Scholar ResearchGate | Twitter 
Latest publications:
Sandbrook, C. and C.J. Cavanagh and D. Tumusiime (eds). (2018). Conservation and Development in UgandaNew York and London: Routledge/Earthscan.
Cavanagh, C.J. (2018). Political ecologies of biopower: diversity, debates, and new frontiers of inquiry.Journal of Political Ecology 25(1): 402-425.
Cavanagh, C.J. (2018). Critical ecosystem infrastructure? Governing the forests-water nexus in the Kenyan highlands. In R. Boelens, T. Perreault, and J. Vos (eds). Water JusticeCambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 302-315.
Cavanagh, CJ. (2018). Enclosure, dispossession, and the ‘green economy’: new contours of internal displacement in Liberia and Sierra Leone? African Geographical Review 37(2): 120-133.

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