CfP POLLEN20 – Contested Waters and Fluid Properties in Capitalist Natures

Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN 20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organizers

Camelia Dewan (University of Oslo), Knut G Nustad (University of Oslo). Please send your abstract of 250 words by Monday 18th November (17 CET) to and k.g.nustad@sai.uio. We will respond to submissions by 20th November.

Session Description

While much has been written about enclosure of land for conservation as well as exploitation, much less has been written about enclosures of water worlds, both river systems and oceanic.  For oceans, the term “ocean grabbing” has been used to describe these enclosures as actions, policies or initiatives that deprive small-scale fishers of resources, dispossess vulnerable populations of coastal lands, and/or undermine historical access to areas of the sea (Barbesgaard 2018; McCormack 2017), but similar enclosures also take part in fresh water worlds.

For enclosures of these kinds on land, the concept of the Plantationocene has been proposed for ‘the devastating transformation of diverse kinds of human-tended farms, pastures, and forests into extractive and enclosed plantations, relying on slave labor and other forms of exploited, alienated, and usually spatially transported labor’  (Haraway 2015). While the term succeeds in displacing universal man, and making visible (racialised) power relations and economic, environmental and social inequalities in the ruins of global capitalism, its focus retains a bias toward land.

Unlike land, water is not a fixed property, nor does it have fixed properties. The fluid qualities that enable water to connect, means that it can also be a major medium for pollution and a threat when overly abundant. And, being essential to all productive processes, it can readily become a means of control and domination (Krause and Strang 2013).

Water is integral for the production of capitalist natures. At the same time, contested waters highlight how it is (mis)used and inadvertently at the receiving end of the toxic flows of capitalist extraction in ways that threaten liveability of our very planet. What, then the session asks, does the qualities of water matter to processes of plantation-making, the production of capitalist natures, on the 70 percent of the globe covered by water?

Bringing together political ecologies of water with environmental ethnographies focusing on the materialities of water, we welcome contributions that discuss to what extent, if at all, the Plantationocene can be useful in theorising contested waters with its fluid properties.

We invite papers that address one of the following, or related, questions:

  • How does the nature of water enable or hinder its translation as a resource?
  • How does the flow of water distinguish it from other resources?
  • How are processes of scaling up different in aquatic and land-based enclosures?
  • How is property in landscapes marked by flow and movement different from property rights in land?
  • In what ways do water act both as commodity and as a means of production?
  • Can fisheries/other mono aquacultures be scaled in the same way as other plantation systems?
  • What are the restrictions of the Plantationocene in conceptualising capitalist modes of production dependent on, and situated alongside, waterbodies (such as factories, shipbuilding/breaking yards, mines) and their toxic entanglements with [aquatic] livelihoods?
  • What are the limits of Marxist theory of property rights in capturing contemporary processes of the production of capitalist water worlds?

Depending on the number of paper submissions, we may propose this session as a three-hour workshop.

If you have any other questions, please do get in touch with us.


 Bakker, Karen. 2012. ‘Water: Political, Biopolitical, Material’. Social Studies of Science 42 (4): 616–23.

Barbesgaard, Mads. 2018. ‘Blue Growth: Savior or Ocean Grabbing?’ The Journal of Peasant Studies 45 (1): 130–49.

Budds, Jessica, Jamie Linton, and Rachael McDonnell. 2014. ‘The Hydrosocial Cycle’.

Geoforum 57 (November): 167–69

Haraway, Donna 2015. ‘Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin’ . Environmental Humanities, vol. 6, 2015, pp. 159-165.

Krause, Franz, and Veronica Strang. 2013. ‘Introduction to Special Issue: “Living Water”’. Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology 17 (2): 95–102.

McCormack, Fiona. 2017. Private Oceans: The Enclosure and Marketisation of the Seas. London: Pluto Press.​

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