POLLEN newsletter: September/October

Dear POLLEN members and friends (with apologies for X-posting),

Greetings and welcome to a new POLLEN update. Many thanks to all who have sent in their new publications and opportunities, which have been inspiring for us to read. We hope everyone enjoys reading this month’s newsletter and we thank everyone who sent us contributions.

A pdf version of the newsletter can be found here

A message on behalf of the Lancaster POLLEN node:

We would like to inform you that this will be Lancaster’s last newsletter as the POLLEN Secretariat. Alongside Katharine Howell who successfully finished her PhD, it has been an absolute pleasure to serve in this role for the past two years. We have watched the network grow, with many new nodes – particularly in the global south – and thousands of new members! We are pleased to be handing over the job of POLLEN Secretariat to the University of Copenhagen. We will continue to be active members and helping in communications on the twitter feed. We would like to thank all the nodes that make POLLEN what it is today, and of course Stasja Koot and the rest of the Wageningen node who enabled us to hit the ground running because of their great work. Looking forward to seeing many of you are POLLEN20 in sunny Brighton, UK in June!

Ben Neimark and Marleen Schutter


The POLLEN 20 organizing committee is pleased to announce a call for proposals for organized conference sessions. The deadline for submission of session proposals is 31 October 2019, and all proposals should be submitted via online form. The conference, titled Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration, will be held in Brighton, UK on 24-26 June 2020, hosted by the ESRC STEPS Centre (IDS/SPRU, University of Sussex) and The Political Ecology Network (POLLEN) Secretariat, and Radical Futures at the University of Brighton, with support from the BIOSEC project and SIID at the University of Sheffield. For inquiries about co-hosting or getting involved, please email POLLEN@sussex.ac.uk. All calls for papers and other news can be found here.


The concerns of the young protesters are justified: A statement by Scientists for Future concerning the protests for more climate protection

Political ecology fieldwork with a toddler: a personal account by Jessica Hope

Branding indigenous peoples in tourism and beyond by Stasja Koot

Land matters in contemporary southern Africa by Stasja Koot, Catie Gressier and Robert Hitchcock

From our friends at Entitle:

Between drought and monsoon: the embodied hardship of seasonal work in Maharashtra’s sugar cane plantations by Irene Leonardelli

How can we use blockchain for an eco-socialist transformation? By Defne Gonenc

The Amazon fires are Bolsonaro’s political crimes and call for urgent action by Political Ecology from the South/Abya Yala Working Group of the Latin American Social Science Council (CLACSO)

From the POLLEN node at the Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo:

Terra Nullius: What is going on in the rural world? By Mariel Aguilar-Støen

From the POLLEN node at the Massey University Political Ecology Research Centre in New Zealand:

Dr. Trisia Farrelly at the Noumea and Waigani Convention COPs and the Pacific Environment Forum (PEF): http://perc.ac.nz/wordpress/trisia-farrelly-at-the-noumea-and-waigani-convention-cops/

Visiting Scholar at PERC DR. Pete Myers: http://perc.ac.nz/wordpress/perc-visiting-scholar-dr-pete-myers/


Bartels, Lara Esther (forthcoming): Peri-Urbanization as ‘Quiet Encroachment’ by the Middle Class. The Case of P&T in Greater Accra. Urban Geography.

Cameron, M.M., 2019. Three Fruits: Nepali Ayurvedic Doctors on Health, Nature, and Social Change. Lexington Books. https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498594233/Three-Fruits-Nepali-Ayurvedic-Doctors-on-Health-Nature-and-Social-Change

Córdoba, D., Juen, L., Selfa, T., Peredo, A.M., de Assis Montag, L.F., Sombra, D. and Santos, M.P.D., 2019. Understanding local perceptions of the impacts of large-scale oil palm plantations on ecosystem services in the Brazilian Amazon. Forest Policy and Economics, 109, p.102007. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forpol.2019.102007

Enns, C., Bersaglio, B. and Sneyd, A., 2019. Fixing extraction through conservation: On crises, fixes and the production of shared value and threat. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. https://doi.org/10.1177/2514848619867615

Hein, J. (2019). Political Ecology of REDD+ in Indonesia. London: Routledge.

Hung, P.Y., 2019. Placing Green Energy in the Sea: Offshore Wind Farms, Dolphins, Oysters, and the Territorial Politics of the Intertidal Zone in Taiwan. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, pp.1-22. https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2019.1625749

Jakobsen, J., 2019. The maize frontier in rural South India: Exploring the everyday dynamics of the contemporary food regime. Journal of Agrarian Change. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/joac.12337

Lukas, M.C. and Flitner, M., 2019. Scalar fixes of environmental management in Java, Indonesia. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, p.2514848619844769. https://doi.org/10.1177/2514848619844769.

Massé, F., 2019. Conservation Law Enforcement: Policing Protected Areas. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, pp.1-16. https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2019.1630249

Neri, M., Jameli, D., Bernard, E. and Melo, F.P., 2019. Green versus green? Adverting potential conflicts between wind power generation and biodiversity conservation in Brazil. Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pecon.2019.08.004

Parry, L., Radel, C., Adamo, S.B., Clark, N., Counterman, M., Flores-Yeffal, N., Pons, D., Romero-Lankao, P. and Vargo, J., 2019. The (in) visible health risks of climate change. Social Science & Medicine, p.112448. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112448

Weldemichel, T. and TA Benjaminsen, C. J. Cavanagh, and H. Lein. (2019). Conservation: beyond population growth – response to Ogutu et al [eLetter response to Ogutu et al. 2019 and Veldhuis et al. 2019 in Science 365 (6449): 133-134.]

Weldemichel, T. and TA Benjaminsen, C. J. Cavanagh, and H. Lein. (2019). Conservation: beyond population growth. Science 365 (6449): 133 . [Letter response to Veldhuis et al. 2019 in Science 363 (6434), ‘Cross-boundary human impacts compromise the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem’.]

A debate in Science:

Weldemichel, Benjaminsen, Cavanagh & Lein. 2019. Conservation: Beyond population growth. Science 365 (6449): 133.

Follow-up on debate: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6449/133.2/tab-e-letters

Benjaminsen, T. A. & P. Hiernaux. 2019. From desiccation to global climate change: A history of the desertification narrative in the West African Sahel, 1900-2018  Global Environment 12 (1): 206-236.

Wilshusen, P.R., 2019. Environmental governance in motion: Practices of assemblage and the political performativity of economistic conservation. World Development, 124, p.104626. Free downloads available at this link until Oct. 1, 2019: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1ZYdw,6yxDAXzS

Aram Ziai, Franziska Müller & Daniel Bendix. Postdevelopment Alternatives in the North. In: Klein, E. and Morreo, C.E. eds., 2019. Postdevelopment in Practice: Alternatives, Economies, Ontologies. Routledge.

Special section in the Journal of Political Ecology: Political ecologies of the blue economy in Africa


William Moseley has been appointed to the 2019-2021 Steering Committee of High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security & Nutrition of UN Committee on World Food Security

Two events at Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo:

Degrowth: A conversation about a new sustainable economy (3 October 2019)

Book Launch: Wind Energy Development, Conflict & Resistance in a Latin American Context (8 October 2019)

An interview with Diana Ojeda who is a professor and researcher at the Institute of Social and Cultural Studies (PENSAR) at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, in Bogotá, Colombia. She is interested in political ecology and feminist geography and holds a Ph.D. in Geography from Clark University in the United States: “Ethical notions in environmental and development research: an interview with professor Diana Ojeda”

The interview is posted in the “Environment, Society and Development in Latin America-ESDLA” research group’s weblog site. The research group is based at the Department of Geographical and Historical Studies, University of Eastern Finland, Finland.


Call for papers: “The Future of Forever Chemicals? Citizen Participation and Rising Awareness of PFAS and Related Contamination in a Time of Deregulation”

STREAMS-conference, Stockholm 5-8 august 2020

Call for papers: Slow Violence and Environment at the International Sociological Association forum conference in Porto Allegre- Brazil in 14-18 July 2020

Call for Papers – Nature as Climate Solution? Exploring the Political Ecologies of Nature-based Carbon Removal

CFP: Special Issue of Environment & Society on Pollution/Toxicity

Call for Papers „Making Sense of Climate Change – Models, Cosmologies and Practices from North Africa and the Middle East 8–9 June 2020, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin

Resilient, Inclusive, & Sustainable Environments (RISE): A Challenge to Address Gender-Based Violence in the Environment

Call for contributions: “Bridging research, policy and activism for environmental justice in times of crises”

2019-2020 Joint Call. BiodivERsA is pleased to announce the launch of its 2019-2020 Call on the theme: Biodiversity and Climate Change

Chair/Reader in Political Ecology at Lancaster University

Job opportunity: Professor of Human Geography at the University of Manchester

Job opportunity: Assistant Professor of Sociology in Global Inequality at Illinois State University

Assistant Professor, Anthropology of Food, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University, Bloomington. The Department of Anthropology at Indiana University Bloomington seeks applicants for a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in Social-Cultural Anthropology with a demonstrated expertise in food and culture, a commitment to ethnographic research, and success in interdisciplinary collaboration and comparative work. More information can be found here

Louise Emily Carver’s (Lancaster University) research poster on Farming Nature Post Brexit nominated for the Beazley Designs of the Year Award at London Design Museum

NEW NODES – Welcome to POLLEN!

Best wishes,

Marleen Schutter, Ben Neimark, John Childs, Simon Batterbury, Patrick Bigger, James Fraser, Giovanni Bettini, Katharine Howell

POLLEN secretariat, Lancaster University




Louise Emily Carver’s (Lancaster University) research poster on Farming Nature Post Brexit nominated for the Beazley Designs of the Year Award at London Design Museum

Louise Emily Carver’s (Lancaster University) research that informed a poster exhibit Farming Nature Post Brexit on the UK’s new agricultural subsidy systems after Brexit has been nominated for the Beazley Designs of the Year Award at the London Design Museum, and will be displayed in the exhibition at the Museum between 10th September 2019 and 9th February 2020. The poster emerged from an ongoing collaboration between Louise and curator Dani Admiss and was chosen by the Design Museum as a means of catalysing a broader public conversation over the political dimensions of the UK’s new farm subsidy and payment systems. 
Located in the architecture category for its investigation into land use and politics, the nominated contribution explores the political ecology of wildlife conservation and natural capital accounting techniques under the new farming subsidy and payment system, called Public Money for Public Goods, feted to replace the Common Agricultural Policy when the UK leaves the EU. The idea of “Farming Nature”, is a speculative critique of PMPG that derives from Louise’s doctoral research into DEFRA’s adventures and experiments with biodiversity offsetting (2013-2017). Here, brokers and commercially minded farmers were conceptualising the opportunities for biodiversity payments to align with growth and efficiency logics shaping their land use practices leading them to describe biodiversity offsets in terms of ‘yields’ and with optimised productivity (c.f Carver and Sullivan 2017).

The Design Museum describes the Award as follows: “Beazley Designs of the Year explores innovations and interventions from around the world that champion accessibility, design for women and local ideas with global impact. In its 12th year the award is an annual celebration of the most original and exciting products, concepts and designs across the globe today.  Nominators were asked to select their favourite designs that inspire, represent change in their field and capture this moment in time.” The poster is part of a Louises’s effort to bridge political ecology research and new audiences. 

Call for contributions: “Bridging research, policy and activism for environmental justice in times of crises”

International workshop on Environmental Justice 

“Bridging research, policy and activism for environmental justice in times of crises” Freiburg, Germany, 27 – 29 May 2020 

Institute of Environmental Social Sciences and Geography, University of Freiburg EnJust Network for Environmental Justice 

Call for contributions 

In the face of the global multi-dimensional sustainability crises, questions of environmental justice have gained new momentum. During most of the 20th century issues of environmental justice revolved primarily around local impacts of air pollution, contamination of soils and water bodies with toxic substances and exposure of socially or economically marginalized groups to environmental hazards. More recent environmental justice concerns have expanded in space and time. There is increasing acknowledgement of the complexity of environmental justice in the Anthropocene, spanning different spatial scales and pertaining to justice-related questions about the present as well as the near and far future. This includes, but is not limited to, processes of the degradation of our global commons and their local effects; dispersed, yet structurally comparable struggles for survival of indigenous groups; and injustices as a result of local-to-global-scale policies and regulations designed as a response to environmental crises. 

In light of this situation of fragmented but systemic exploitation and degradation, we would like to use the forum of the EnJust workshop to discuss the role of the environmental justice movement which we understand to be an inclusive and diverse community. In particular, we hope to generate debate on how new alliances, connected and inclusive approaches, and innovative methods may be used to contribute towards greater concern for justice issues in the context of environmental crises. Complexity, uncertainty and plurality create amalgamations between once distinct domains of knowledge and action as well as formerly unrelated fields of environmental justice work: activists become researchers with access to critical inside information, policy-makers co-produce knowledge jointly with scientists, and academics have a desire to – or are forced to – leave the ivory tower to engage in, as well as study, the politics of environmental degradation in order to contribute to more just futures. 

This workshop, collaboratively organized by the Institute of Environmental Social Sciences and Geography at the University of Freiburg and the EnJust Network for Environmental Justice, aims at fostering debate and learning processes about the roles, responsibilities and approaches of the emerging inter- and transdisciplinary environmental justice movement composed of scholars, activists and decision-makers. 

The workshop will bring together individuals from these groups, who self-identify with the environmental justice movement, in order to critically engage with current research, concrete ideas, practices, and methods for bridging the divides between environmental justice research and practice, between activism and scientific study, and between collective and individual decision-making. It will provide a space to collectively explore and deepen transdisciplinary work and activist-research for a more just and fairer future. 

We invite researchers, activists, planners and policy-makers from academic, governmental and non-governmental organizations to submit their ideas for contributions at the workshop, in line with the abovementioned themes. Topics might include, but are not limited to: 

– Potential and challenges of transdisciplinary work – Participatory and activist research – Artistic research and the role of art-based approaches – Environmental justice and policy-making – New municipalism and urban politics – (Local) coalitions for environmental justice – Struggles of indigenous communities – … 

Contributions should be submitted as an abstract for a ‘traditional’ conference paper, a poster or an intervention of up to 400 words by 31 October 2019 to enjust2020@geographie.uni- freiburg.de. Please mark clearly at the top of your abstract which of the following three contributions your abstract refers to: 

Papers should highlight a current or recent research or practice project and include a discussion of both methods/approaches and (preliminary or final) results. 

Posters, in addition to presenting current or recent initiatives, may also focus on research or practice ideas and projects still at the planning stage. 

Interventions should contain an interactive element, such as presenting and discussing audiovisual or artistic material. 

We look forward to hearing from you! 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at: enjust2020@geographie.uni- freiburg.de 

Notification of selected papers will be sent by December 2019. lf your paper abstract is accepted, we will ask you to send a short paper for pre-circulation to session organizers by 15 April 2020. We envisage publishing some of the contributions as a special issue and/or another type of publication . 

The workshop fee will be €80. A reduced fee of €40 is available for students, including PhD students. Participants with limited travel budget are strongly encouraged to submit their abstracts. We will be able to reimburse travel costs and accommodation for a limited number of participants. 

STREAMS-conference, Stockholm 5-8 august 2020

The KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory wishes to invite you and colleagues to participate in the upcoming conference STREAMS: Transformative Environmental Humanities in Stockholm 5–8 August 2020.
The link provides you with information for submitting session proposals (deadline September 30) as well as for individual papers (deadline November 30). Additional content, including links for registration, will be updated to this website as well.
You are welcome to spread this call as you see fit and do let me know if you have any further questions for us to help out with.
On behalf of Marco Armiero, Sabine Höhler, and Sverker Sörlin for the organisational committee,

Johan Gärdebo | STREAMS Conference Coordinator
KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory
KTH Royal Institute of Technology
SE 100 44 Stockholm, Sweden

Job opportunity: Professor of Human Geography

The University of Manchester seeks to appoint a Professor in Human Geography in the Department of Geography (School of Environment, Education and Development, SEED) to provide leadership in our research in Human Geography. Although outstanding candidates from any field of human geography are encouraged to apply, we are particularly keen to hear from those who can strengthen our research excellence and capacity in one or more of our three human geography research groups, in particular feminist or social geographies.

More details can be found here

Branding indigenous peoples in tourism and beyond

By Stasja Koot

Throughout the years, much has been written about the image of ‘indigenous’[1] peoples as ‘authentic’ people of nature (Garland and Gordon 1999, Carrier and West 2004, Comaroff and Comaroff 2009, Koot 2017a, Hüncke and Koot 2012, Gordon and Douglas 2000, Fennell 2008, Sylvain 2014, Butler and Hinch 2007, Carr, Ruhanen and Whitford 2016). This image is often presented as if these people are still living in tune with nature, while often they have become marginalised under colonialism and past and present processes of the spread of neoliberal capitalism, including the rise of global cultural or indigenous tourism. In today’s sustainability discourse, indigenous people are often characterised as the authentic ‘natural ecologists’ or the wise protectors of the land. As such, they can function as an example for non-indigenous people who can begin to live in harmony with nature just like them (Fennell 2008, Koot 2017b). In marketing campaigns, they are often ‘naturalised’ for tourist consumption and are shown in photographs, for example, in traditional dress with the local flora and fauna (Chambers 2000). And consumers, such as Western tourists, see the progress of modernity as a state that depends on modernity’s own inauthenticity, which creates the belief that authenticity is always elsewhere: in the past or in the ‘simpler’, ‘purer’ cultures far away (MacCannell 1976). Thus, driven by consumer culture, “the 21st century is an age that hungers for anything that feels authentic” (Banet-Weiser 2012, 3), and today, branding reflects and affects our cultural and social relations on a daily basis. Marketers acknowledge the power of authenticity as an essential aspect of branding. This is an area where we, ‘the inauthentic’, search for genuine affects, ideas, and emotions in our consumer culture (Banet-Weiser 2012).

Indigenous tourism, based on branding indigenous people, thus creates an important contradiction in which Western ideals about nature and the people living there are enacted through the free market, creating products based on the tourists’ consumptive needs. In this way, tourists spread ‘inauthentic’ capitalist values and the market system, instead of supporting authentic indigenous practices (Carrier and West 2004, Koot 2016). In fact, ethnic commodities are contradictory in the sense that, seen from the conventional assumptions about value and price, the appeal of such commodities lies in the idea that they resist the rationality of such ordinary economics.

The Bushman brand in tourism

One example of such ‘branded’ indigenous people are the Bushmen (or San)[2] of southern Africa. They are often still considered part and parcel of nature, an image that can be viewed in the wider context of romanticism about Africa. The tourist sector in southern Africa has typical branding strategies that tap into the image of a wild Africa and portray the continent as spectacular, thriving with wildlife, and sparsely populated by some western explorers and exotic people (Ellis 1994). To give just one example of a text by a tour operator: the Bushmen “have much to offer our modern ways of living in terms of a sustainable existence with nature” (NAAT 2019).

In my research over the years I have investigated the marketing of this touristic image and shown some of the Bushmen’s responses to such marketing. I found that their ‘authentic’ image itself has now become a financial asset in tourism and therefore can be considered a brand: the ‘Bushman brand’. In the end, a brand can be regarded as “a process of attaching an idea to a product” (Walker 2006), which is exactly what the Bushman image has turned into: a product with (romantic) ideas attached to it. Even broader, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a brand as “a particular identity or image regarded as an asset” (Oxford Dictionaries 2019). Seen as such, static representations of indigenous identities, based on the authentic image, are brands in today’s neoliberal political economy; in tourism especially, the Bushmen’s image is commodified within the free market system as a particular product with financial value, and as such can be regarded an asset based on the many ideas attached to it. However, in this process it is often assumed that Bushmen “do not participate in visual discourse, they are always represented as different and other: a silent minority who show no resistance to the identity which has been historically created for them” (Bester and Buntman 1999, 58). Although I do not deny power relations through branding (Koot 2016), to consider Bushmen a ‘silent minority who show no resistance’ does not do justice to reality. In fact, in many cases they have shown agency to engage with contemporary (tourism) projects, and with the Bushman brand, for their own benefit (Koot 2017a, Koot 2018).

Bushmen responses

Commodification does not necessarily mean that those who commodify their identities and/or image will always remain victims of market forces, although it might appear this way at first. Numerous examples show that indigenous groups set up their own entrepreneurial activities based on their authentic ethnicity. In this, there is a good level of tactical and critical consciousness (Comaroff and Comaroff 2009). As such, various groups of Bushmen have shown to use the Bushman brand to their advantage. For example, the ≠Khomani Bushmen in South Africa have shown themselves in the media as the authentic people of the Northern Cape Province to successfully gain back land (see, e.g. Koot and Büscher 2019). Today, some of them perpetuate the usage of the Bushman brand, mostly in tourism. For example, the first thing that catches one’s eye when arriving in their reclaimed land are the craft makers along the road side where they sell souvenirs to tourists, dressed up ‘traditionally’ at their road stalls, or stalletjies in Afrikaans. However, commercial operators of course also benefit from this brand and throughout history more powerful parties have created this brand in the first place (Koot 2016). Commercialised usage of the brand is widespread and highly supported by consultants, private enterprises and NGOs[3], often promoted as a ‘competitive advantage’ in neoliberal development strategies. For example, the NGO the African Safari Lodge Foundation (ASLF) believes that the ≠Khomani need their “own brand identity” to be able to survive in today’s competitive tourism industry (ASLF 2011, 3), and a marketing company has supported the ≠Khomani in acquiring (free of charge) their own website (http://www.khomanisan.com/). Notably, the company supported the ≠Khomani in developing “their new identity” (FOTK 2015), although it remains unclear what exactly they mean by this. Becoming a ≠Khomani brand, it seems, means that the Bushmen are becoming part of the neoliberal capitalist system predominantly as a brand, and not as ‘authentic’ hunter-gatherers.

≠Khomani ‘stalletjies’ in the Northern Cape, South Africa

Further North, in the Namibian Nyae Nyae Conservancy, a Tourism Development Plan was developed by consultants to prepare for funding (Humphrey and Wassenaar 2009). They wrote about the local Ju/’hoansi Bushmen as

universally known to be ancestors of “the world’s first people” and continue to live in harmony with the environment […] It is recommended that the above message be provided to visitors entering the area through the design and construction of regional gateway points (Humphrey and Wassenaar 2009, 88).

This recommendation resembles an amusement park for tourists, something that was long ago already described by the famous Ju/’hoansi filmmaker and activist John Marshall as a “plastic Stone Age” (1984), in which tourists enter a geographical area where one can gaze at wildlife and ‘authentic’ Bushmen. Such commodification at times leads to uncomfortable situations, as an employee of an NGO that operates in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy explained:

Within the Conservancy [Ju/’hoansi] people think every tourist that comes, they should make money out of it. They’re starting to make their culture become like a whole business thing […] If anybody wants to take a picture it’s money, money, money, money.

And it is exactly this discomfort that demonstrates the contradiction described above: once Bushmen start to adapt to neoliberal capitalism and capitalise on their own brand, the values and ideas on which the brand is built make the people ‘inauthentic’. On the one hand, the capitalist value of profit maximisation is continually promoted in tourism, based on the economic idea that individuals want to gain financial benefits. On the other hand, this can ‘make their culture become like a whole business thing’ (‘inauthentic’), based on the idea that they should stay authentic and not hanker for money.

But just as with the ≠Khomani and their stalletjies, the Ju/’hoansi also want to benefit from the Bushman brand, as the self-made logo meant to attract tourists near the settlement of Mountain Post, inhabited by Ju/’hoansi, shows:

Self-made marketing by the Ju/’hoansi of Mountain Post, Nyae Nyae Conservancy, Namibia

The global indigenous brand beyond tourism

The idea that a particular group of indigenous people can be seen as a brand, or defines itself as a brand, is certainly not unique to the Bushmen of southern Africa or to tourism only. Recently, the Maasai of Kenya started a legal procedure to protect their ‘cultural heritage’ legally, which has been used by more than 1,000 companies, including Calvin Klein, Jaguar Land Rover, Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton, while a group of aboriginal Australians are struggling to create protocols that oblige companies who use their images or ancestral lands for marketing or other commercial purposes to pay a fee to them (Pilling 2018). And in the U.S., native Americans performing at Euro-Disney at a ‘Wild West Show’ do not view tourist performances as perpetuating the image of a ‘native savage’. Such performances can create a sense of taking back ownership of native representation through their participation, providing them a chance for cultural exchange, education, cultural pride, and accomplishment (Scarangella 2005).

Maasai imagery for branding Luis Vuitton clothing

In all these cases, the indigenous people have not only been exploited under colonialism and neoliberal capitalism, they have also actively responded to and tried to benefit from it. It seems as if indigenous people’s first response to the encroachment of the capitalist world is to selectively transform the usage of commodities for themselves. Therefore, they often have not merely entered the capitalist world economy as passive objects of exploitation; they are also active agents continually engaging in their environment (Sahlins 1992). If they embrace their image as people of nature, indigenous people can use their agency creatively; they commodify their own ‘spectacularisation’ as people of nature (cf. Igoe 2017). It is important to be wary though, that such agency and engagement are derived based on a conformation with dominant values in contemporary society and that they often do not have many other choices.


[1] I am aware of the contentious character of the term ‘indigenous’, but it goes beyond the scope of this blog to elaborate on this in detail.

[2] Both ‘Bushmen’ and ‘San’ are debatable terms. I prefer the use of ‘Bushmen’ instead of ‘San’, because most of the indigenous people whom I worked with in southern Africa—practical and as a researcher—told me they preferred this term. I am aware, however, of the colonial, patronising and derogatory connotations that the term ‘Bushmen’ (and, to a lesser degree, ‘San’ too) can have (see, e.g. Gordon & Douglas 2000).

[3] For a debate on private sector-community tourism, the usage of the brand and the consequences of this usage in the South African Northern Cape Province, between myself and Keyan Tomaselli, please check out Koot (2016), Tomaselli (2017) and Koot (2017c).

ASLF. 2011. Khomani San, Northern Cape. African Safari Lodge Foundation (Newsletter). 3-4.

Banet-Weiser, S. 2012. AuthenticTM: The politics of ambivalence in a brand culture. New York: NYU Press.

Bester, R. & B. Buntman (1999) Bushman(ia) and photographic intervention. African Arts, 32, 50-59 + 93-94.

Butler, R. & T. Hinch. 2007. Introduction: Revisiting common ground. In Tourism and indigenous peoples: Issues and implications, 1-12. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Carr, A., L. Ruhanen & M. Whitford (2016) Indigenous peoples and tourism: the challenges and opportunities for sustainable tourism. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 24, 1067-1079.

Carrier, J. & P. West (2004) Ecotourism and authenticity: Getting Away from It All? Current anthropology, 45, 483-498.

Chambers, E. 2000. Native tours: the anthropology of travel and tourism. Illinois: Waveland Press.

Comaroff, J. L. & J. Comaroff. 2009. Ethnicity, Inc. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ellis, S. (1994) Of elephants and men: politics and nature conservation in South Africa. Journal of Southern African Studies, 20, 53-69.

Fennell, D. A. (2008) Ecotourism and the myth of indigenous stewardship. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 16, 129-149.

FOTK. 2015. Friends of the Khomani San, http://www.khomanisan.com/foks/, retrieved 21 August 2015.

Garland, E. & R. J. Gordon (1999) The Authentic (In)Authentic: Bushman Anthro‐Tourism. Visual Anthropology, 12, 267-287.

Gordon, R. J. & S. S. Douglas. 2000. The Bushman myth: the making of a Namibian underclass. Boulder: Westview Press.

Humphrey, E. & T. Wassenaar. 2009. Tourism development plan: Nyae Nyae & N≠a-Jaqna Conservancies. Windhoek: Yetu Consulting Services and African Wilderness Restoration.

Hüncke, A. & S. Koot (2012) The presentation of Bushmen in cultural tourism: tourists’ images of Bushmen and the tourism provider’s presentation of (Hai//om) Bushmen at Treesleeper Camp, Namibia. Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies, 26, 671-689.

Igoe, J. 2017. The Nature of Spectacle: On Images, Money, and Conserving Capitalism. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Koot, S. (2016) Contradictions of Capitalism in the Kalahari: Indigenous Bushmen, their Brand and Baasskap in Tourism. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 28, 1211-1226.

—. 2017a. Cultural ecotourism as an indigenous modernity: Namibian Bushmen and two contradictions of capitalism. In Handbook of Environmental Anthropology, eds. H. Kopnina & E. Shoreman-Ouimet, 315-326. New York: Routledge.

— (2017b) Old Wine in a New Bottle: Seeking Sustainability among the Earth Keepers. Current anthropology, 58, 685-686.

— (2017c) Poor picking: A response to Tomaselli and a plea for critical research in a neo-liberal times. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 25, 1197-1200.

— (2018) The Bushman Brand in Southern African Tourism: An Indigenous Modernity in a Neoliberal Political Economy. Senri Ethnological Studies, 99, 231-250.

Koot, S. & B. Büscher (2019) Giving Land (Back)? The Meaning of Land in the Indigenous Politics of the South Kalahari Bushmen Land Claim, South Africa. Journal of Southern African Studies, 45, 357-374.

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The Amazon fires are Bolsonaro’s political crimes and call for urgent action

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

By: Political Ecology from the South/Abya Yala Working Group of the Latin American Social Science Council (CLACSO)

(scroll down for translations into Español, Portuges, Français, e Italiano; you can add your signature here)

The recent images of fires in the Amazon, in Pantanal, Cerrado and Chaco as well as the smoke clouds hovering over São Paulo, are not mere coincidences of climate. They are the result of advances in neo-extractivism and deforestation, intensified by the criminal policies of Jair Bolsonaro’s government. This government is manipulating legal frameworks to promote vicious policies against the most basic human rights as well as against Nature Rights. The colossal rings of fire engulfing the Amazon are one of the most abhorrent chapters of his political crimes and deserve the most urgent and active repudiation by the entire international community.

From his electoral campaign (that took place between August and October), Bolsonaro has supported…

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How can we use blockchain for an eco-socialist transformation?

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

By Defne Gonenc

There is a lot of excitement about blockchain among technology professionals. It is also celebrated by many for bringing more transparency to supply chains and promoting decentralized governance. However, can blockchain do more than this? Can this technology potentially open the door for a complete eco-socialist transformation? Yes, but how? Time for action and discussion.

Blockchain and Karl Marx Blockchain and Karl Marx: Question is how to use blockchain for an ecosocialist transformation. 2017. Image obtained from Medium.com.

A day barely goes by when we do not hear the word “blockchain”. Particularly last year, global interest in blockchain technology, as well as in cryptocurrencies and artificial intelligence, has permeated many places. If you also keep hearing blockchain without knowing what really it is, it is a distributed and decentralized public ledger. In other words, it is public information (the block) stored in a public database (as a “chain”)…

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Between drought and monsoon: the embodied hardship of seasonal work in Maharashtra’s sugar cane plantations

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

by Irene Leonardelli

At the end of a too-long, extremely dry summer, rural women from the drought-prone district of Beed, Maharashtra, finally return home, after six months of seasonal employment in sugar cane plantations. Encountering them allows me to reflect on experiences of drought and monsoon and on the embodied implications of environmental and agrarian transformation. 

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Reminder: monthly POLLEN newsletter

Dear POLLEN members,

Our next newsletter is fast approaching, and we would like to invite everyone to send us things that they would like to see circulated – CfPs, job adverts, blog posts, publications, petitions, etc. We will then make sure to include it all in the newsletter.
Please send us anything that you would like to share by 12 September.

Best wishes,

Marleen Schutter
POLLEN Secretariat, Lancaster University, UK