Call for participants in POLLEN22 paper sessions

Actualizing the potential of political ecology in transformative change

Fourth Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN22)
POLLEN 2022: North, South and Beyond
Durban, South Africa
28-30 June 2022

Session organizers

Sierra Deutsch (, University of Zürich, and Josie Chambers
(, Wageningen University

Paper proposals (abstract, 250 words max) should be sent to and by Friday, December 1st, 2021.

We will respond shortly after to let you know whether we would like to include your abstract in our official session
submission before the 15 December deadline.

Keywords: transformative change, social justice, collective action, nature conservation,
Indigenous and Local Knowledges (ILK)

Session abstract

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
(IPBES) defines transformative change as a “fundamental, system-wide reorganization across
technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values” (IPBES
2019: XVIII). Transformative change is therefore deeply political, and political ecology thus
particularly well-suited for understanding and enabling such change (Bluwstein 2021; Blythe
et al. 2018). Various actors in multiple academic disciplines, governments, and social
organizations have interpreted the transformative change in myriad ways and from multiple
perspectives (Scoones et al. 2020; Vogel and O’Brien 2021). And while some of these
perspectives incorporate ideas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, many lack a deeper
analysis of power and continue to operate under apolitical assumptions that privilege
technocratic approaches to transformative change. As a result, while many different
connotations of transformative change have been operationalized in various contexts, certain
voices and perspectives are often muted or completely absent (Martin et al. 2020). For
example, a recent systematic review of Indigenous and Local Knowledges (ILK) in
transformative change research found that such perspectives are almost always relegated to a
supportive role, rather than a central or equal one (Lam et al. 2020). Yet approaches to
transformative change arguably have much to learn from place-based cultures, which are
grounded in reciprocity, collective land stewardship, and regenerative practices, and therefore
offer a stark contrast to the current global paradigm (Blaser et al. 2010; Hall & Fenelon,

Political ecology encourages us to ask questions about what a fundamental, system-wide
reorganization of society looks like in theory and practice and it invites us to interrogate
whose paradigms, goals, and values must be reorganized and how (Massarella et al. 2021).
However, political ecology is often critiqued for focusing more on illuminating dominant
power relations than on offering concrete pathways for action to transform them (Chambers et
al. 2021). In this session, we aim to reflect on the theories and practices of transformative
change within the space of political ecology. We are particularly interested in political
ecology’s role in actively repoliticizing spaces of technocratic power and in working with
marginalized actors and knowledge systems, such as those representing ILK, to elevate their
perspectives and more fully pluralize transformational roles, debates, and solutions. We invite
abstracts of no more than 250 words that reflect on the blind spots of political ecology’s
applications to transformative change, as well as its current and potential contributions. We
are thus interested in exploring the following questions, as well as any related ones:

In what ways can political ecology enable transformative change and in what ways
might it hinder it?
● How can political ecology better translate critiques of certain approaches to
transformative change into actual changes in practice?
● How can political ecology better serve marginalized knowledges, such as those of
indigenous peoples, in transformative change processes and projects?
● How can political ecology better challenge dominant knowledges, such as
technocratic/capitalist approaches, in transformative change processes and projects?
● What is the role of political ecology in disrupting power relations in practice?
** For this panel, there will be a strong emphasis on diversity of speakers (geographical
origin, cultural perspectives, race, gender, career stage, discipline, etc.) and on inclusive
discussions. Therefore, we kindly request that you include some information on your
positionality (related to these dimensions or others you find important) when submitting
your abstract.**

** For this panel, there will be a strong emphasis on diversity of speakers (geographical
origin, cultural perspectives, race, gender, career stage, discipline, etc.) and on inclusive
discussions. Therefore, we kindly request that you include some information on your
positionality (related to these dimensions or others you find important) when submitting
your abstract.**


Blaser, M., R. De Costa, D. McGregor, and W. D. Coleman (eds). 2010. Indigenous Peoples
and Autonomy: Insights for a Global Age. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Bluwstein, J., 2021. Transformation is not a metaphor. Political Geography 102450.

Blythe, J., Silver, J., Evans, L., Armitage, D., Bennett, N.J., Moore, M.-L., Morrison, T.H.,
Brown, K., 2018. The Dark Side of Transformation: Latent Risks in Contemporary
Sustainability Discourse. Antipode.

Chambers, J.M., Wyborn, C., Ryan, M.E., Reid, R.S., Riechers, M., Serban, A., Bennett, N.J.,
Cvitanovic, C., Fernández-Giménez, M.E., Galvin, K.A., Goldstein, B.E., Klenk, N.L.,
Tengö, M., Brennan, R., Cockburn, J.J., Hill, R., Munera, C., Nel, J.L., Österblom, H.,
Bednarek, A.T., Bennett, E.M., Brandeis, A., Charli-Joseph, L., Chatterton, P., Curran, K.,
Dumrongrojwatthana, P., Durán, A.P., Fada, S.J., Gerber, J.-D., Green, J.M.H., Guerrero,
A.M., Haller, T., Horcea-Milcu, A.-I., Leimona, B., Montana, J., Rondeau, R., Spierenburg,
M., Steyaert, P., Zaehringer, J.G., Gruby, R., Hutton, J., Pickering, T., 2021. Six modes of coproduction for sustainability. Nat Sustain 1–14.

Hall, T. D., and J. V. Fenelon. 2008. “Indigenous Movements and Globalization: What Is
Different? What Is the Same?” Globalizations 5 (1): 1–11.

IPBES. (2019). Global assessment report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform
on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Bonn, Germany: IPBES Secretariat. ISBN: 978-3-

Lam, D., E. Hinz, D. Lang, M. Tengö, H. von Wehrden, and B. Martín-López. 2020.
Indigenous and local knowledge in sustainability transformations research: a literature review.
Ecology and Society 25(1):3.

Martin, A., Armijos, M.T., Coolsaet, B., Dawson, N., AS Edwards, G., Few, R., Gross-Camp,
N., Rodriguez, I., Schroeder, H., GL Tebboth, M. and White, C.S., 2020. Environmental
justice and transformations to sustainability. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable
Development, 62(6), pp.19-30.

Massarella, K., Nygren, A., Fletcher, R., Büscher, B., Kiwango, W.A., Komi, S., Krauss, J.E.,
Mabele, M.B., McInturff, A., Sandroni, L.T. and Alagona, P.S., 2021. Transformation beyond
conservation: how critical social science can contribute to a radical new agenda in
biodiversity conservation. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 49, pp.79-87.

Scoones, I., Stirling, A., Abrol, D., Atela, J., Charli-Joseph, L., Eakin, H., Ely, A., Olsson, P.,
Pereira, L., Priya, R., van Zwanenberg, P., Yang, L., 2020. Transformations to sustainability:
combining structural, systemic and enabling approaches. Current Opinion in Environmental

Vogel, C., O’Brien, K., 2021. Getting to the heart of transformation. Sustain Sci.

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s