CfP POLLEN22: Critical political ecology perspectives on ‘the’ blue economy

Type of session: Panel session and/or paper session

Organisers: Kate Symons, Lecturer in Global Development ( and Mark Lamont (, Lecturer in International Development, both Development Policy and Practice, The Open University, UK.

Session Abstract

The ocean’s role in global sustainable development is firmly on the agenda. Environment, conservation and development institutions are paying more attention to ocean and marine environments, and the four billion people who depend on directly on ocean resources (Cohen et al. 2019). Ideas about blue growth have emerged as a way of protecting ocean resources while simultaneously exploiting them for economic gain. Blue economies are emerging in various contexts including Africa, South Asia, Pacific Islands and Europe. Though ‘the’ blue economy can be defined in many ways, they often appear to be driven by a complex set of often-contradictory imperatives including: ecological fixes for extractives and industrial ocean-based projects such as deep-sea mining and bioprospecting; neoliberal environmental governance such as carbon credits from ‘blue carbon’; geopolitical concerns including territorialisation, security and marine spatial planning; aquaculture; and ‘blue diplomacy’ efforts to fulfil specific political and investment goals (Bond, 2019; Keen at al., 2018; Ramesh and Rai, 2018; Voyer et al., 2018). A small but growing body of critical research into blue economies foregrounds issues of power, justice and agency, questioning the idea that the ocean can simultaneously be a source of economic growth while maintaining the protection of traditional livelihoods, cultures and more-than-human life (Childs and Hicks, 2019; Cohen et al., 2019; Ertör & Hadjimichael, M., 2020; Okafor-Yarwood et al., 2020).

This session invites research which develops critical political ecological perspectives on specific blue economy policies and schemes in particular contexts, as well as blue political ecologies more generally. This could include the following themes and questions:

– How are blue economies being envisaged and implemented in different contexts? What histories, institutions, values, claims, policies, political strategies and power relations are involved in ‘actually-existing’ blue economies?

– To what extent are blue economies based on dynamics of enclosures of marine commons and limitations of community access to ocean resources? Are there examples of counter-hegemonic or pluralistic approaches to blue growth (including more-than-human approaches), or contestation of blue economy schemes?

– Do blue economies represent the further neoliberalisation of oceanic nature through dynamics such as carbon and biodiversity credits and/ or eco-tourism? Do neoliberal nature analyses adequately capture the emergence of blue economies in different contexts?

– How are blue economies entangled with more-than-human life?

– How should we understand the global politics and geographies of the blue economy? How do blue economies complicate and/ or reinforce existing notions of North and South?

Our objective is to develop the growing body of scholarship on blue economies from political ecology and related perspectives (such as human geography, development studies and environmental humanities). We also hope to develop critical perspectives on the role of the ocean in global development and environment efforts. We aim to include papers from researchers with experience of blue economies in different contexts in the Global North and South, and develop a research agenda focussed on just and equitable approaches to marine and coastal development.

Submission information:

Depending on the number of papers received, we hope to structure the session to allow 15 minutes per speaker, followed by a panel-style discussion.

Please send your abstract to one of the organisers by 15th January 2022, and please do contact one of us with any questions.

Please submit with the following information:

Name and affiliation (we recognise the contingency of research employment and welcome independent and non-affiliated papers)

Title of presentation (max 20 words)

Abstract (max 250 words)

List of max 3 key words


Bond, P., 2019. Blue Economy threats, contradictions and resistances seen from South Africa. Journal of Political Ecology, 26(1), pp.341-362.

Brent, Z.W., Barbesgaard, M. and Pedersen, C., 2020. The Blue Fix: What’s driving blue growth?. Sustainability Science, 15(1), pp.31-43.

Childs, J.R. and Hicks, C.C., 2019. Securing the blue: political ecologies of the blue economy in Africa. Journal of Political Ecology, 26(1), pp.323-340.

Cohen, P.J., Allison, E.H., Andrew, N.L., Cinner, J., Evans, L.S., Fabinyi, M., Garces, L.R., Hall, S.J., Hicks, C.C., Hughes, T.P. and Jentoft, S., 2019. Securing a just space for small-scale fisheries in the blue economy. Frontiers in Marine Science, 6, p.171.

Ertör, I. and Hadjimichael, M., 2020. Blue degrowth and the politics of the sea: rethinking the blue economy. Sustainability Science, 15(1), pp.1-10.

Keen, M.R., Schwarz, A.M. and Wini-Simeon, L., 2018. Towards defining the Blue Economy: Practical lessons from Pacific ocean governance. Marine Policy, 88, pp.333-341.

Okafor-Yarwood, I., Kadagi, N.I., Miranda, N.A., Uku, J., Elegbede, I.O. and Adewumi, I.J., 2020. The blue economy–cultural livelihood–ecosystem conservation triangle: The African experience. Frontiers in Marine Science, 7, p.586.

Ramesh, M. and Rai, N.D., 2017. Trading on conservation: A marine protected area as an ecological fix. Marine Policy, 82, pp.25-31.

Voyer, Genevieve Quirk, Alistair McIlgorm & Kamal Azmi (2018a) Shades of blue: what do competing interpretations of the Blue Economy mean for oceans governance?, Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 20:5, 595-616, DOI:10.1080/1523908X.2018.147315

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