CfP POLLEN20 – Navigating differences across communities: Whether, why, who and how?

Call for participants
Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organizers

Jasper Montana (, University of Oxford, and Josie Chambers (, University of Cambridge

Paper proposals (abstract, 250 words max) should be sent to and by October 18th, 2019.

Session abstract

Contradictory accounts of socio-environmental issues and their desired future trajectories are underpinned by narratives, values and traditions that are frequently in conflict. These differences are often hardened and polarized through existing or emerging communities, collectives and social movements that embed and entrench positions in their identities, language and actions. There is recognised value in this diversity of positions and the political struggles that emerge between them. Such conflicts are recognised as integral elements of robust political systems (Mouffe 2005), be it through deliberative democracy (Dryzek 2012) or agonistic political relations that re-enliven increasingly post-democratic modes of governance (Swyngedouw 2014). However, polarized perspectives on their own frequently lead to political deadlock, isolationism, and even forms of extremism. In this paper session, we invite papers that explore how political ecology might have a role in describing and enabling interactions across communities with conflicting or divergent narratives, values and traditions, why such an enabling role may or may not be constructive, who might be involved, and how it might be done.

This session responds to recent scholarship on the practices of co-creation, co-production, conflict management and transdisciplinary knowledge production that are increasingly being offered as ways to bridge between communities (Wyborn et al. 2019) and the politics that they make explicit or otherwise ignore (Goldman et al. 2018). It recognises prominent tensions in environmental research raised by passionate calls for consensus as a way of working together (Tallis and Lubchenco 2014) and equally fervent arguments for the importance of maintaining pluralism in order to not shut down debate (Matulis and Moyer 2017). It seeks to emphasise the potential for interactions between communities to offer spaces in which established notions of who is ‘the expert’, what ‘good governance’ looks like, and how related epistemological or political hierarchies can be unpacked and revisited. In doing so, we conceive of communities as multiple, diverse and intersecting with differences that are not easily navigated or made amenable to description. They may be understood as epistemic communities, political communities, social movements, socio-material collectives, or otherwise. Their interactions may be through collaborative research projects, long-term conflict negotiation, or daily moments of confrontation and encounter (workplace disagreements, human-wildlife conflicts, protest and civil disobedience, etc.).

We welcome contributions exploring or experimenting with description, intervention, methodology, critique and creativity in cross-community interaction. This may include exploration of a range of questions, such as:

  • How to conceptualize and describe differences among communities (e.g. beliefs, values, identities, etc)? What features might be generalisable and what specific? (descriptive)
  • How to actively facilitate processes that allow different communities to explore their differences or conflicts, and work across them? (normative)
  • What is the potential value of doing this descriptive and normative work? What opportunities may it open up?
  • How and when might it be problematic, risky or difficult? What are the ethical implications?
  • What lessons does this descriptive and normative work offer with regards to the nature of communities, an understanding of ‘the political’, and the framing of socio-environmental issues?
  • How has political ecology engaged in these issues in the past, and what are the new opportunities?


Dryzek, J.S. 2012. Foundations and Frontiers of Deliberative Governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Goldman, M.J., Turner, M.D., and Daly, M. 2018. “A critical political ecology of human dimensions of climate change: Epistemology, ontology, and ethics.” WIREs Climare Change 9 (e526): 1-15.

Matulis, B.S., and Moyer, J.R. 2017. “Beyond inclusive conservation: The value of pluralism, the need for agonism, and the case for social instrumentalism.” Conservation Letters 10 (3): 279-287.

Mouffe, C. 2005. On the Political. London; New York: Routledge.

Swyngedouw, E. 2014. “Where is the political? Insurgent mobilisations and the incipient “return of the political”.” Space and Polity 18 (2): 122-136.

Tallis, H., and Lubchenco, J. 2014. “Working together: A call for inclusive conservation.” Nature 515 (7525): 27-28.

Wyborn, C., Datta, A., Montana, J., Ryan, M., Leith, P., Chaffin, B., Miller, C., and Kerkhoff, L.v. 2019. “Co-producing sustainability: Reordering the governance of science, policy, and practice.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 44: 3.1-3.28.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s