CfP POLLEN22: Synergy or contrast? When political ecology theoretical claims meet practical transdisciplinary challenges in social-ecological research projects

Organizers: Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky1* (, Heide Kerber1 (, Markus Rauchecker1 (

ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Hamburger Allee 45, 60486 Frankfurt am Main

* Contact organizer


Addressing crises in societal relations to nature involves co-creation of knowledge among multiple disciplines and practitioners. Research in transdisciplinary mode involves collaboration with key stakeholders from problem framing to deriving conclusions. At the same time, crises in societal relations to nature are tied to power imbalances, for instance in shaping discourse on ‘sustainability problems’. Addressing these in a transdisciplinary setting involves a series of practical questions, starting from the distribution of funding among the research and practice partners involved in a transdisciplinary research project, especially when conducted in North-South collaborations.

Political ecology offers an enriching conceptual framework for systematically illuminating power asymmetries and uneven distributions of environmental change causes and impacts. While critical analyses provide key insights on how power relations reproduce crises in societal relations to nature, solution-oriented conclusions are rarely drawn. Here linking a political ecology lens with transdisciplinary research appears promising, as the latter implies the ambition of developing specific solutions towards sustainable and just development. However, what happens when the research subject is concurrently research partner? How to analyse power structures through the critical lens of political ecology while at the same time jointly defining a common research object and seeking knowledge integration as a transdisciplinary researcher? Furthermore, tension evolves around normativity. Researchers in political ecology and transdisciplinary research are themselves embedded in a web of power relations, and often witness sensitive situations. They thus have to constantly reflect on being both, analytical observers and participants in social transformation processes.

Against this backdrop, the panel seeks to take stock of challenges evolving around seeming contradictions, e.g. when working with actors who are subject to criticism, and the thereby arising double roles of actors involved (research subject, partner, analytical observer, participant in transformation) within applied research processes. We furthermore seek to explore the ethics of linking political ecology and transdisciplinary research approaches, methodologically and theoretically. In short, the panel aims to elaborate synergies and contradictions of political ecology approaches in relation to transdisciplinary social-ecological research.

Keywords: actor involvement, social-ecological research, co-production, power asymmetries, transdisciplinarity

Format of session: Panel

Call for Papers

We invite paper abstracts addressing practical challenges and experiences with reference to the aspects outlined above. Please send your abstract and additional information as follows:

Name, affiliation, presentation title (maximum 20 words), abstract (maximum 250 words), and 3 keywords

Submission deadline: November 30, 2021

Invitation for contribution: December 15, 2021

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