Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meeting Salt Lake City, March 22-26th (virtual participation is possible)
We (Jessie Fly, Eckerd College and Jess Ham, Oxford College at Emory) are hoping to assemble a panel on teaching the commons for the Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meeting to be held in Salt Lake City March 22-26th (description below). We will approach the subject from the perspective of the undergraduate classroom but are open to examples from any level of education. In an effort to encourage an interactive panel, we envision having five 5-10 minute presentations, each of which will end with a question for discussion.
From injunctions to share and cooperate in preschool to extreme resistance to group projects, a narrow view of education as a zero-sum pathway to wealth has emerged and aggregates in higher education. Along the way, we have lost our way in accepting responsibility for the other members of our planet, both now and in the future, and perpetuate a misunderstanding of what it means to sacrifice for the good of all. And perhaps most damaging, this vision of what education serves, rather than what education can help us envision, has cultivated a self-serving resistance to imagining sociopolitical organization outside of the status quo. We believe this is a powerful point of engagement for the “revolutionary potential of the social sciences,” specifically anthropologists, human geographers, political ecologists and kindred social scientists putting theory into practice in the classroom. Serge Latouche calls on us to “decolonize imaginaries” and one powerful way to do this is to teach “the commons” or “commoning.” As well-studied by the social science community, the commons invites us to (re)-consider how we meet needs through resource production and consumption while simultaneously caring for human and non-human kin. This panel will bring together teachers from around the world to share and discuss strategies for helping students reimagine their interactions with their worlds by helping them tone the muscle of reimagination in the collective space of a classroom.
This month we are delighted to introduce a new POLLEN node based in Czechia. As always, we are also happy to share the latest publications, CfPs, and more from our lively community. If your node is keen to feature its work in the upcoming newsletters, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s a great way to share and get dialogue around your work. We also welcome proposals for blog posts on the POLLEN blog – please contact us at the same email address with any ideas!
Each monthly newsletter includes a brief introduction to one of our many POLLEN nodes, to build connections across our community. This month we would like to introduce you to a new node based in Czechia.
The umbrella themes of the node include societal transformations towards just and sustainable futures, interactions between environmental policies and societal movements, and the roles of environmental justice, protest, and activism in shaping governance systems. The node aims to build on the rich interdisciplinary expertise of its members, including environmental and sustainability studies, development studies, ethnology, environmental sociology, policy science, social and political anthropology, philosophy, and arts.
The node members are active in both global and Central/Eastern European research and strive to nurture the exchange of research insights across scales and contexts. They contribute to knowledge co-production initiatives and interfaces between science, policy, and practice.
Lenka Suchá is a postdoctoral researcher at Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences with a background in development studies. Her research is embedded in environmental justice, exploring how diverse power relations in society interact with each other and underpin access to land and to other social and ecological capital, thus contributing to numerous layers of inequalities. Lenka’s PhD was exploring the diversity of land access mechanisms of small-scale urban farmers in Soweto, South Africa. Her recent research focuses on the interplay between the practice of Czech official development assistance (ODA) and the social-ecological links of land tenure, governance, and well-being in rural Zambia. She has extensive experience in ethnography and builds on the principles of participatory action research.
Zuzana Harmáčková is a research associate in the Department of Human Dimensions of Global Change at CzechGlobe – Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences and Stockholm Resilience Centre. She focuses on scenarios of potential future development, looking particularly into which social-ecological futures do stakeholders, experts and policy-makers envision at different scales, from local to global. Zuzana has participatory scenario-building processes in a variety of contexts (Europe, Africa, Central Asia) and is involved in the work of science-policy interfaces, currently contributing to the assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
Julia Leventon is the head of the Department of Human Dimensions of Global Change at CzechGlobe – Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences. She works broadly on topics of governance systems change for sustainability, engaging in topics of biodiversity loss and climate change (and their related symptoms). Julia takes a systems thinking approach, including understanding place-based social-ecological interactions, and how these are embedded within multilevel governance systems, including politics, polity, and policy. Her work has a strong focus on inter- and trans-disciplinarity, with a contribution to developing methodologies therein.
Petr Jehlička is Senior Researcher at the Institute of Ethnology and at the Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague. He has a long-standing interest in everyday environmentalism and sustainable food consumption at the intersection of formal and informal food economies. More recently, inspired by postcolonial and decolonial scholarship and responding to the exclusion of East European variants of environmentalism and sustainability from the circuits of cosmopolitan knowledge production Petr has explored these topics in relation to inequalities in the geography of knowledge production. His work has interrogated existing hierarchies in global knowledge production by examining the dominant research on post-1989 East European environmentalism and proposed its re-think, arguing for a more positive framing that extends it in the direction of ‘post-postmaterial’ environmentalism. One example of this work is the lessons from the East European inconspicuous but materially significant food self-provisioning and sharing practices as sustainable and caring behaviours that do not rely on intentionality and postmaterial value change but draw on the desire to produce healthy food for human Others.
Tereza Stöckelová is a researcher at the Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, and an associate professor at the Department of Sociocultural Anthropology, Charles University. Her work is situated in-between sociology, social anthropology, and science and technology studies (STS), and draws upon actor-network theory and related material semiotic methodologies. She investigated academic practices in the context of current policy changes, science and society relations, environmental controversies, and the interfaces between biomedical and alternative therapeutic practices. Her current research is concerned with trajectories of human-microbial and – fungal coexistence in the Czech Republic. It builds on the concepts of microbiopolitics, (micro)biological citizenship, and situated biologies and it maps out how embodied subjectivities, biosocialities, and state governance are being (re)configured in relation to and through microbial and fungal agents. Since 2020 she is a member of the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology, an advisory body and forum of reflection set up by UNESCO.
Martin Vrba studied philosophy and theory of interactive media at the Faculty of Arts of Masaryk University and conceptual art at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Brno University of Technology. He is currently one of the coordinators of the Czech branch of the international movement Extinction Rebellion. He also works as a dramaturge and scriptwriter for CO2 Kolektiv, which focuses on ecopolitical theater, and is a co-founder of the Unconditional Basic Collective, where he is connecting the idea of unconditional basic income with environmental issues. He worked as an art editor in A2 and FlashArt magazines and is a contributor to periodicals such as A2larm, Artalk.cz, or art + antiques.
Arnošt Novák is a researcher at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities, Charles University in Prague. His expertise is in environmental sociology, social movements, and environmental policies, focusing (among others) on the themes of urban gardening, urban squatting, and radical ecological initiatives in Czechia.
Jan Vávra is an environmental sociologist focusing on informal food production, social aspects of agriculture, climate change, and household carbon footprints. He received his Ph.D. in Culturology in 2012 at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague. Currently, Jan is a researcher in the Department of Local and Regional Studies at the Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Jan has worked in many EU and Czech-funded research projects where he gained experience with quantitative and qualitative research in social science and multidisciplinary collaboration. Recently, Jan has served as a Management Committee member of the COST Action European Network for Environmental Citizenship and has become Co-chair of the Environmental and Rural Sociology Section of the Czech Sociological Association.
Lukáš Likavčan is a philosopher focusing on technology, ecology, and visual cultures. He received his degree in philosophy and PhD in environmental studies at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. Likavčan currently teaches at Center for Audiovisual Studies FAMU in Prague and Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture, and Design in Moscow, and he is a member of Prague-based collective Display – Association for Research and Collective Practice. As a researcher, he was based at Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht. Likavčan is an author of Introduction to Comparative Planetology, and a chief curator of Fotograf Festival #11: Earthlings.
Bohuslav (Bob) Kuřík is an assistant professor at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities, Charles University in Prague. His expertise is in political, digital and environmental anthropology, focusing on the themes of protest and resistance, in/dividuality, autonomy and post-politics.
David Stella is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Human Dimensions of Global Change at Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CzechGlobe). David focuses on stakeholder-based processes related to the assessment and evaluation of ecosystem services, natural resource management, and climate change adaptation.
Thomas Smith is an assistant professor at the Department of Environmental Studies, Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University in Brno. His research interests relate to economic diversity and the social solidarity economy, geographies of sustainability transitions, and wellbeing and the ‘good life’ in post-growth economies.
Mikuláš Černík is a PhD student at the Department of Environmental Studies, Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University in Brno. He has a long track record of leading pro-sustainability advocacy initiatives which he also studies within his research focused on just and sustainable transformations.
Coleman, E., Schultz, W., Ramprasad, V., Fischer, H., Rana, P., Filippi, A.,Güneralp, B., Ma, A., Rodriguez, S., Guleria, V., Rana, R., Fleischman, F., 2021. ‘Limited effects of tree planting on forest canopy cover and rural livelihoods in Northern India’, Nature Sustainability, <https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-021-00761-z>.
Dawson, N. M., B. Coolsaet, E. J. Sterling, R. Loveridge, N. D. Gross-Camp, S. Wongbusarakum, K. K. Sangha, L. M. Scherl, H. Phuong Phan, N. Zafra-Calvo, W. G. Lavey, P. Byakagaba, C. J. Idrobo, A. Chenet, N. J. Bennett, S. Mansourian, and F. J. Rosado-May. 2021. ‘The role of indigenous peoples and local communities in effective and equitable conservation’, Ecology and Society, vol. 26, no. 3, <https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-12625-260319>.
Deutsch, S. 2021. ‘Populist authoritarian neoliberalism in Brazil: making sense of Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental agenda’, Journal of Political Ecology, vol. 28, no. 1, <https://doi.org/10.2458/jpe.2994>.
Koot, S. 2021. ‘Enjoying extinction: Philanthrocapitalism, jouissance, and ‘excessive environmentourism’ in the South African rhino poaching crisis’, Journal of Political Ecology, vol. 28, no. 1, <https://doi.org/10.2458/jpe.2984>.
Staddon, S., Byg, A., Chapman, M., Fish, R., Hague, A. & Horgan, K. 2021, ‘The Value of Listening and Listening for Values in Nature Conservation’, Journal of People and Nature, <https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10232>.
Date: 4th-9th October 2021, online, asynchronous engagement, open access
The Political Ecology Research Centre at Massey University and the Centre for Space, Place & Society at Wageningen University are excited to share information about the upcoming virtual conference Conviviality. This conference draws together many early-career researchers as well as established scholars, including many from the Global South, to examine intersections of agriculture and the practices, values, and limits of diverse relations among humans, plants, animals, and soil. The conference content will be posted to the conference homepage.
There are no registration or costs associated with the conference, and the presentations and discussions will stay online as a resource. More information about the conference: https://perc.ac.nz/wordpress/conviviality/
Funded PhD Research Assistantship at Kansas State University
The Department of Geography and Geospatial Sciences at Kansas State University invites applications for a 3-year funded Doctoral Research Assistantship to support an interdisciplinary study on how wildfire risk interacts with conservation incentives in rural landscapes as part of the NSF-funded project, “Agri-environmental Conservation Incentives in the Extreme Wildfire Context of the U.S. Southern Plains.”
Geography and Geology – WVU Center for Resilient Communities, West Virginia University
The Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University invites applications for a Research Assistant Professor of Geography with a focus on the right to food, food justice, and/or food sovereignty in the Appalachian region beginning November 2021. This is a 9-month, non-tenure track position with full benefits and the opportunity for promotion. Research Assistant Professor appointments have renewable terms of up to three years, with no limit on the number of terms. Research faculty are expected to demonstrate excellence in research and make significant contributions to community outreach and education.
The successful candidate will have a PhD in Geography or related fields and a minimum of 2 years of experience conducting community-based research with partner organizations; will show evidence of the ability to publish peer-reviewed research articles; the ability to lead community-based action research projects; and the ability to propose an active independent research program supported by extramural funding focused on food policy and food systems change and its implication in the Appalachian region. Candidates with experience supervising undergraduate students in experiential learning projects are also welcome to apply.
To apply, visit https://careers.wvu.edu/career-opportunities and upload a single PDF file with a cover letter, curriculum vitae, statement of research philosophy, and a description of your potential to further our progress in advancing social justice and building a diverse and inclusive academic community. Also, please arrange to have three reference letters sent to Dr. Bradley Wilson at email@example.com. The screening process will begin October 15 and continue until the position is filled.
Assistant Professor at University of Illinois Urbana
The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences in the College of ACES at the University of Illinois Urbana – Champaign seeks an Assistant Professor of Natural Resource Policy and Sustainable Landscapes, expected to begin August 16, 2022. In addition to conducting empirically based research related to natural resource management, the successful candidate will be expected to teach and advise at the undergraduate and graduate level as well as recruit and train graduate students. A Ph.D. in an appropriate field is required.
For full consideration all requested application information must be received by October 15, 2021; however, interviews may begin prior to the close date. Salary is commensurate with qualifications and experience.
Supervision inquiries can be directed to relevant faculty in the Department of Geography (POLLEN node members include Professor Ragnhild Overå and Associate Professor Connor Cavanagh). Broader questions concerning UiB application practicalities can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other news items
Women Mind the Water Artivist Series
Women Mind the Water podcasts engage artists in conversation about their work to explore their connection with the ocean and how it influences their art. Hopefully, these stories will inspire you and move you to take action to protect the ocean.
This month we are delighted to introduce a new POLLEN node – the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro. As always, we are also happy to share the latest publications, CfPs, and more from our lively community. If your node is keen to feature your work in the upcoming newsletters, please write to us at email@example.com. It’s a great way to share and get dialogue around your work. We also welcome proposals for blog posts on the POLLEN blog – please contact us at the same email address with any ideas!
Each monthly newsletter includes a brief introduction to one of our many POLLEN nodes, to build connections across our community. This month we would like to introduce you to a new node in the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro.
Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro’s POLLEN node
The node’s central research theme is the political ecology of peripheral industrialization. The industrialization of urban peripheries has meant their transformation into zones of environmental sacrifice. Based on the relationship between geography and political ecology, the intention is to investigate the impacts of industrial production in the peripheries of the world, especially in the poorest parts of Metropolitan Rio de Janeiro.
Key questions they work on include: What is the role of the sustainable development model in Brazil’s territorial and productive restructuring? What are the companies’ environmental protection and care strategies? What is the meaning of adopting sustainable development by industries? Research agendas include environmental changes, conflicts with traditional communities, and sustainable actions by companies.
Leandro Dias de Oliveira earned his Masters in Geography from the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), PhD in Geography from the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), and did Post-Doctoral research in Public Policy and Human Training in the UERJ. Currently, he is an Associate Professor in UFFRJ’s undergraduate and graduate courses in Geography. He is dedicated to studying society-nature relationships from the perspective of Economic Geography, with a focus on the adoption of sustainable development. He is the LAGEP coordinator and an editor of the Space and Economy: Brazilian Journal of Economic Geography.
Andrews José de Lucena has a Masters in Geography from the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) and PhD in Atmospheric Sciences from UFRJ. He is an Associate Professor in Geography for undergraduate and graduate courses at UFRRJ. He works in Physical Geography (Atmospheric Sciences) with an emphasis on Urban Climatology. He is interested in environmental changes in the city and its various associated phenomena, such as the Urban Heat Island (ICU). He manages the website www.climatologia.com.br and coordinates the Integrated Laboratory of Applied Physical Geography.
Heitor Soares de Farias earned his Masters in Geography from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and PhD in Geography from the Federal Fluminense University (UFF). Since 2013, he has taught in higher education and is currently an Adjunct Professor in Geography for undergraduate and graduate courses at UFRRJ. He works with environmental planning based on geographical climatology and researches the health risk associated with climatic phenomena, such as islands of heat, rains and air pollution, mainly. He coordinates the Integrated Laboratory of Applied Physical Geography (LIGA)/UFRRJ.
André Santos da Rocha is a graduate in Geography from the Faculty of Philosophy, Science and Letters, Duque de Caxias, and did his PhD in Geography at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). He is a professor, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses at UFRRJ. He works in Human Geography, with a thematic focus on political and economic geography, and cooperation between Brazil-Africa-Latin America. He is editor of the Continentes Journal, UFRRJ, and coordinator of the Laboratory of Economic Geography, Policy and Planning (LAGEP).
Damaris Alencar de Farias has a Masters in Geography from UFRRJ. She is a chemistry technician from the Federal Technical School of Chemistry (EFTQ-RJ, currently IFRJ) and working at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) managing laboratories at the Johanna Döbereiner Biological Resources Center (CRB-JD). She has researched the impacts over two decades of privatization of water distribution in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She is aslo a member of the Laboratory of Economic Geography, Policy and Planning (LAGEP).
Norma da Silva Rocha Maciel is a Forestry Engineer who graduated from UFRRJ and has a Master’s Degree in Environmental and Forestry Sciences (PPGCAF-UFRRJ). She holds a doctorate in Environmental and Forest Sciences from the same university. Currently, she develops projects in traditional communities with an emphasis on social technologies and the use of non-timber forest products to mitigate environmental impacts.
Letícia Mello de Medonça gained a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations at UFRRJ, followed by a scientific initiation scholarship from the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) for research in sustainable development (2016-2018). She monitors the university’s extension courses, organizes events, publications and presentations on award-winning research, and facilitates student representation. She is a member of the Laboratory of Economic Geography, Policy and Planning (LAGEP).
Victor Tinoco de Souza graduated in Geography and Environment from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), gained his Masters in Social Sciences in Development, Agriculture and Society from UFRRJ and PhD in Geography at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, PUC-Rio (2020). Currently, he is a Postdoctoral Researcher in Geography, UFRRJ, researching the socio-environmental resistances in the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro. He is a member of the Laboratory of Economic Geography, Policy and Planning (LAGEP).
Promoting POLLEN collaboration
Do you write with other members of POLLEN? To gain visibility for collaborations across our network, we invite you to consider adding something along these lines to your acknowledgments: “This paper represents collaborative work with colleagues in the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN).”
Siriwardane-de Zoysa, R., & Amoo-Adare, E. 2021. ‘The bi-polar waterfront: Paradoxes of contemporary shoreline- making in contemporary Accra and Colombo’, In P. Godfrey & M. Buchanan (eds.), Global Im-Possibilities: Exploring the Paradoxes of Just Sustainabilities. London: Zed Books/Bloomsbury.
Bettini, G., Beuret, N., & Turhan, E. 2021, ‘On the Frontlines of Fear: Migration and Climate Change in the Local Context of Sardinia, Italy’, An International Journal for Critical Geographies, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 322-340, <https://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/1838>.
Online workshop Beyond Productivity: Reimagining Futures of Agriculture and Bioeconomy
Date and place 8 October 2021, 10:00 am-3:00 pm (CEST/UTC+2). Registration: via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Politically dominant strategies in the fields of agricultural development and bioeconomy, even those which take Sustainable Development Goals seriously, stick to what might be called a ‘Productivity Paradigm’: increasing productivity is considered to be necessary to alleviate the rising biomass demand and the resulting competition on land use.
Still, there are visions of agriculture and bioeconomy which implicitly question a main pillar of the politically dominant positions on Sustainable Future: productivity increase. These visions are being proposed by politically subdominant stakeholder groups both in the Global North and the Global South. However, the fact that these alternative visions of agriculture imply reduction in productivity growth is often considered as an objection against these visions. For the critics, it seems to be inconceivable how the global demand for biomass could be justly satisfied, if the agricultural productivity will not increase.
The Department of Global Development Studies (DEVS) at Queen’s University invites applications for a tenure-track position at the level of Assistant Professor in the field of Global Health and Development. To teach within the field of development studies, successful candidates would be able to address the relationship between health outcomes and contemporary political-economic and socio-cultural trends such as environmental change, urbanisation, new forms of agriculture and industry, migration patterns and shifts in public provisioning alongside the growing influence of the private and philanthropic sectors.
This position has an ideal start date of July 1, 2022. Candidates must have a PhD or equivalent degree completed at the start date of the appointment. The main criteria for selection are research excellence, and the promise of being an exceptional teacher/mentor. The successful candidate would have the ability to teach an introductory undergraduate course on Global Health and Development while also teaching upper-year and graduate courses on related themes.
Lecturer in Environment and Development at University of Leeds
The Sustainability Research Institute (SRI) in the School of Earth and Environment is looking for an enthusiastic and self-motivated environmental social scientist with a focus on environment and development.
SRI is an internationally leading centre for research in the environmental social sciences. SRI research specialisms include environment and development, business and organisations for sustainable societies, economics and policy for sustainability, energy and climate change mitigation, social and political dimensions of sustainability, and climate change adaptation, vulnerability and services. For this position, the applicant will work on cross-cutting issues such as agriculture and food systems, biodiversity and ecosystem services, cities, system resilience, responses to climate change, environmental and disaster risk management, climate finance or resource extraction/ mining.
The Department of Political Science at Colorado State University (USA) is hiring an assistant professor in international relations with a focus on international/global environmental politics – please see https://jobs.colostate.edu/postings/90164
The Department has a programmatic focus in environmental politics at the doctoral level. Colorado State University, as a whole, emphasizes environmental/sustainability politics, offering many opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.
This is an entry-level tenure-track Assistant Professor position in International Relations with a specialization in international environmental politics. The Department is open with respect to theoretical orientation and methodological approaches. This is a full-time, nine-month appointment, beginning August 16, 2022.
Other news items
Crowdfunding save mangrove campaign
This campaign aims to support comparative research with Black fishing associations living within mangrove habitats in Northern Ecuador and Northwestern Madagascar – further details are here: www.experiment.com
This documentary film explores the economic, social and ecological impacts of the Green (Black) revolution that happened in Punjab in the 60’s.
A matriarch in her 90s recounts her experiences with the introduction of genetically modified organisms to her homeland. Using her farming village as a case study, the film explores the social and environmental degradation wrought by seeds forced onto the people of northwest India.
The outcome was striking not only for the ease with which the court dismissed the case, but also for the unprecedented requirement that the Bunong plaintiffs pay Euro 20,000 in reparations to Bolloré and its Cambodian subsidiary. In light of recent discussions on the potential and constraints of legal activism, we aim here to highlight entrenched structural factors that can hinder communities in legal challenges to corporate land grabs.
The political and economic power of corporate actors like Bolloré and Socfin run deep. Established in the early 1900s, Socfin (Société Financière des Caoutchoucs) played a key role in mobilising European capital to French Indochinese frontiers to develop rubber plantations. As a holding company, Socfin then designated these lands to various subsidiaries for development – a pattern that served to complicate regulation of these corporate actors and their landholdings even in colonial times. The Compagnie du Cambodge cited in this court case was one such subsidiary and shares Socfin’s colonial origins. The high-level connections of companies like Socfin were central to their economic success. In one example cited by French economist Charles Robequain (1944), when Socfin’s Adrien Hallet arrived in French Indochina 1910 he quickly gained agreement from the Colonial administration to mark off ten square kilometres of forest on the Cochinchina-Cambodia border for future development into rubber. In a mark of Hallet’s influence, “the border was pushed back a little” to accommodate this land grant.
Socfin-KCD’s lease of the three Mondulkiri concessions at the heart of the current legal case similarly gained easy government approvals, given KCD’s connections with Cambodian political leaders. These include the concessions known as Varanasi (2,705 ha, granted in 2008), Sethikula (4,273 ha, granted in 2010) and Covyphama (5,345 ha, granted in 2008). In Cambodia, government approvals for plantation investments by domestic companies routinely avoid the consultation, environmental and social assessment requirements of the Sub-Decree on Economic Land Concessions, as well as the national environmental impact assessment guidelines. The involvement of European finance might have invoked international safeguards if investors had sourced funds from the IFC or from banks that subscribe to the Equator Principles, but Socfin’s annual reports suggest that it used other sources of finance for this purpose.
With Cambodian due-diligence procedures by-passed and in the absence of formal international safeguards, Socfin’s operations were only subject to ‘soft laws’ such as the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and to the company’s own voluntary corporate social responsibility principles. Socfin explains onits website that the company voluntarily follows a range of international performance standards (World Bank, RSPO Principles, and the Sustainable Natural Rubber Initiative) and also “adheres scrupulously” to national land ownership and environmental legislation. Yet many countries where the company invests, Cambodia included, are settings where land rights, environmental laws and human rights are routinely flouted.
Socfin has become a visible target for community anger, but there are complex financial relationships between companies at play in this case, echoing the opaque colonial financial networks mentioned earlier. Socfinasia is the key company in the Socfin-KCD joint venture. Registered on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange, Socfinasia is a subsidiary company owned by Socfin (58%) and the Bolloré Group (22%). The Bollore group also owns the Compagnie du Cambodge mentioned in this case, and 39% of the share in Socfin. These intricate corporate relationships can serve to muddy the lines of accountability.
The French legal case addresses this corporate accountability issue. Rilov observed that the Bunong case would be the first in France against a parent company for actions overseas by a subsidiary, although such cases had been heard in the US and the UK. In reflecting on the challenges of mounting such a cross-jurisdictional legal case, he noted the important facilitating role of international and Cambodian actors such as Global Witness, British legal firm Leigh Day, the Cambodian Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA) and Cambodian lawyer Sek Sophorn. It was through these connections and relationships that Rilov ultimately developed the case with a group of 80 Bunong farmers against Socfin-KCD and the Bolloré Group for their loss of vital income and sacred forests.
The court ruled the Bunong case inadmissible on the grounds that none of the plaintiffs held title documents to prove their personal right to use the land, and for their alleged delays in submitting documentation. This emphasis on individual land titles is at odds with the customary and collective land tenure system that governs land access in Bunong communities. Yet, the Cambodian legal framework does recognise Indigenous Peoples’ rights to possess land and to use forest products (Civil Code; the 2001 Land Law and the 2002 Forestry Law). In particular, the 2009 sub-decree #83 under Cambodia’s Land Law enables formal recognition of lands where Indigenous people have cultural ties and that they have traditionally used for forest products and shifting cultivation.
The court might have been satisfied if the Bunong plaintiffs held a communal land title (CLT) for the contested areas under the 2009 sub-decree mentioned above. However, the process of formalising CLT is known to be complex, costly and time-consuming, with only 33 titles registered so far around the country. Furthermore, the 2009 sub-decree came after the ELCs had already been allocated to Socfin-KCD and clearance work commenced. Although the Cambodian Ministry of Interior has recognised Indigenous community bodies, meeting the second step in the land registration process, titling has been complicated by the existing land allocations. A community leader explained in 2016 that many of the areas they could potentially claim in a communal title application were already occupied by Socfin. Thus, the Bunong community has been unable to secure Indigenous communal title.
The option of gaining private land titles has also bypassed many Bunong families around the Socfin-KCD concessions. The Cambodian government’s fast-tracked private land titling campaign in 2012-2013 aimed to address land conflicts between economic land concessions and smallholder farmers across the country. The focus on individual private titles rather than communal lands caused friction within Bunong communities, but some families were keen to gain land security on these terms. Gaps and inequities in implementation are well documented with this intervention. Here too, a 2020 study found that some 26 percent of their studied land plots were titled during this process, of which around 71% went to Khmer migrants rather than Bunong people. A key constraint was that company did not permit the measurement and titling of land inside the concessions. The Bunong community thus lost out both on private titles and communal titling, further weakening their legal standing in the French case.
Notably, other non-judicial processes have been mobilized by the company and non-state parties to compensate the villagers and address their grievances. The company has offered to address the conflicts through monetary compensation, land swaps for other locations or leasing of some concession lands as smallholder rubber plantations. The implementation of these options was problematic in many respeccts, however some community members accepted the small cash compensation (150-200 USD/ha) offered to them (Chan et al. 2020 and FIDH). In 2016, the company and three groups of villagers (not those involved in the trial) agreed to use an independent mediation process. The process is a locally contested, however, and concerns a limited section of the disputed land.
As far as the trial is concerned, the Bunong representatives and their French supporters are appealing the decision on the grounds of their ancestral ties to land. Yet, it is difficult to see how the case can progress through a system that is so heavily swayed towards politically and economically powerful actors, who can position themselves favourably within legal systems that disenfranchise Indigenous groups for their lack of formal property rights.
The case points to larger challenges for Indigenous communities in using judicial processes to counter corporate land grabs. Here, legal activism has forged important alliances and community action, but also exposes a highly unequal playing field both within Cambodia and Europe and the associated challenges in seeking land justice across jurisdictions.
This month we are delighted to introduce another POLLEN node – the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol. As always, we are also happy to share the latest publications, CfPs, and more from our lively community. If your node is keen to feature your work in the upcoming newsletters, please write to us at email@example.com. It’s a great way to share and get dialogue around your work. We also welcome proposals for blog posts on the POLLEN blog – please contact us at the same email address with any ideas!
Each monthly newsletter includes a brief introduction to one of our many POLLEN nodes, to build connections across our community. This month we would like to introduce you to the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol.
University of Bristol’s POLLEN node
The Political Ecology Research Group is based in the School of Geographical Sciences but aims to bring together academic staff and postgraduate research students from across the University of Bristol with an interest in the knowledge dynamics and power struggles animating contemporary human-environment relations. The group welcomes all those committed to advancing the critical scholarship of the processes by which nonhuman natures are conceptualised, mapped, governed, and reconstituted. Its current members’ interests span diverse issues including climate change, biodiversity conservation, energy cultures and transition, environmental risk, hazards and resilience, and resource making and extraction. The node aims to facilitate exchange and discussion on these and other related topics through lunchtime seminars organised during term time, given by a mix of external guest speakers and internal members of staff.
Ed Atkins is a lecturer in human geography at the University of Bristol. Ed’s research spans environmental justice, sustainable energy transitions, and citizen engagement in responding to climate and ecological emergencies. He has previously published work on opposition to hydropower in Brazil and retains an interest in how the green credentials of renewable energies are contested. His current work includes research into the role of place-based perspectives in a just energy transition and the political ecologies of digital infrastructure.
Negar Elodie Behzadi is a lecturer in Human Geography and the co-convenor of the Political Ecology group at the University of Bristol. Negar is a feminist political geographer interested in how intersectional forms of exclusion and marginalisation are (re)produced and contested in stressed environments. Her research brings the insights of feminist geography and the sensibilities of an ethnographer to topics related to resource extraction and violence, migration, labour, gender, childhood &youth, and Muslimness in Central Asia (Tajikistan) and France. Negar is also a documentary filmmaker who uses visual, embodied, and arts-based methodologies in the study of marginalization and exclusion.
Molly Bond recently submitted her PhD with the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol. Her academic focus spans emerging and changing practices and understandings of sustainability in agri-food production systems. Her PhD research has explored the recent expansion of ‘lab-grown’ or biosynthetic ‘natural’ products, and the contested and contrasting way in which the innovations are being framed, imagined, understood, and experienced between the industrial biotech promoters and the small-scale farmers, knowers, and growers of the original natural product. She hopes to expand this research into the context of opening up diverse pathways to ‘zero carbon’ agri-food production with an emphasis on the importance of the socio-ecological as opposed to the purely technological underpinnings of future agri-food production agendas and practices.
Lauren Blake is a Lecturer in Human Geography. With a background in anthropology and human geography, she focuses on agri-food systems, with experience predominantly in the UK and Latin America and often working with interdisciplinary teams. Her research examines the interconnections between the health of people, society, animals, and the environment. Employing concepts of agroextractivism, food justice, and geographies of identity, she researches topics ranging from policy, farming practices, agriculture-conservation tensions, activism, malnutrition, precarity, and global development.
Mark Jackson is Senior Lecturer of Postcolonial Geographies in the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol. He teaches postcolonial and decolonial studies, contemporary social theory, and critical geographies of nature and environment. The aim of his current research is to rethink the political and ethical meaning of critique within relational ecologies and under the terms of decoloniality, political ontology, and posthumanism. He edited Coloniality, Ontology, and the Question of the Posthuman (Routledge), is series editor for Routledge Research on Decoloniality and New Postcolonialisms, and is currently writing a monograph called Decolonising Critique.
Jaskiran Kaur Chohan is an interdisciplinary political ecologist. Her research interests focus on food politics from a system and intersectional perspective, including agroecology, alternative farming systems, and rural resistance movements. She has worked and published on sustainable development in Latin America and the UK, the emergence of rural feminist movements, and agroecology transitions. During her PhD she researched the contestation between industrial farming and agroecology in two Zonas de Reserva Campesina, Colombia to understand how rural communities construct sustainable alternatives amidst conflict. She is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the University of Bristol, researching tensions between peasant livelihoods and conservation policies in the mountainous region of Boyacá, Colombia.
Naomi Millner is a senior lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Bristol who explores the knowledge politics surrounding the making and management of global ‘environments’ in the context of changing agendas for sustainability and terrains of conflict. Naomi’s work particularly explores how the technologies and economies of international conservation are becoming a vehicle for the militarisation of conflicted areas – but also how rural communities are using some of the same technologies (e.g., drones) to defend their rights to tenure and alternative visions of environmental futures. In July 2021 she co-organised an international workshop called “Drone Ecologies” that brought together interdisciplinary experts, including political ecologists, to explore how drone technologies are being used in biodiversity conservation, and what their risks and affordances might be.
James Palmer is a lecturer in Environmental Governance based in the School of Geographical Sciences and the co-convenor of the Political Ecology group at the University of Bristol. His research examines resource-making practices associated with new bioenergy economies and infrastructures, the relationships between nonhuman (especially vegetal) natures, labour and value production, and the politics of environmental governance processes relating to carbon dioxide removal and ‘nature-based’ climate solutions.
Adriana Suárez Delucchi is a Geographer specialising in the analysis of environmental management institutions. Her doctoral research from the University of Bristol explored the contributions of feminist sociology ‘Institutional Ethnography’ to the study of community water management in rural Chile. Her analysis maps out concrete avenues to negotiate a more sustainable and just water institution. Her research focuses on natural resource management institutions at different scales (projects, communities, nation state, and transnational discourses and practices). Her aim is to identify, address and challenge the marginalisation of rural and indigenous groups from dominant management arrangements.
Joe Williams is a lecturer in Human Geographer, based in the School of Geographical Sciences. His research aims to understand the changing relationships between the environment and society using theoretical perspectives from political ecology, urban studies, development, and political economy (particularly financialization). His work focuses on the politics of water and energy infrastructure as a lens for critically understanding social and ecological challenges, such as climate change. His current work looks at how infrastructure corridors are changing the geographies of global development. He has a long-standing research interest in the proliferation of seawater desalination as a source of ‘new’ water in diverse contexts around the world, particularly in cities.
Promoting POLLEN collaboration
Do you write with other members of POLLEN? To gain visibility for collaborations across our network, we invite you to consider adding something along these lines to your acknowledgments: “This paper represents collaborative work with colleagues in the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN).”
Bourblanc, M., Bouleau, G., & Deuffic, P. 2021, ‘The role of expert reporting in binding together policy problem and solution definition processes’, in P. Zittoun, F. Fischer, & N. Zahariadis (eds.), The political formulation of policy solutions, Bristol: Bristol Policy Press, pp. 73-91.
Carter, ED., & Moseley, WG. 2021. ‘COVID-19 and the Political Ecology of Global Food and Health Systems’, in G.J. Andrews, V.A. Crooks, J.R. Pearce, & J.P. Messina (eds.), COVID-19 and similar futures: Global perspectives on health geography. Berlin: Springer, pp. 39-45.
Moseley, W.G. 2021. “Political agronomy 101: An introduction to the political ecology of industrial cropping systems’, in A. Gasparatos & A. Abubakari (eds.), The Political Ecology of Industrial Crops, London: Earthscan/Routledge, pp. 25-44.
Bluwstein, J. 2021, ‘Colonizing landscapes/landscaping colonies: from a global history of landscapism to the contemporary landscape approach in nature conservation’, Journal of Political Ecology, <https://doi.org/10.2458/jpe.2850>.
Fent, A., Gibb, C., Ishihara, S., Holler, J., & Moseley, WG. 2021. ‘Confronting the climate crisis: Slow geographies and relational approaches to international research’, Professional Geographer, <https://doi.org/10.1080/00330124.2021.1915827>.
Saxena, A., Dutta, A., Fischer, HW., Saxena, AK., & Jantz, P. 2021, ‘Forest livelihoods and a “green recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic: Insights and emerging research priorities from India’, Forest Policy and Economics,<https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forpol.2021.102550>.
Simon, N., Raubenheimer, K., Urho, N., Unger, S., Azoulay, D., Farrelly, T., Sousa, J. Asselt, H., Carlini, G., Sekomo, C., Schulte, M.L., Busch, P., Wienrich, N., & Weiand, L. 2021, ‘A binding global agreement to address the life cycle of plastics’, Science, vol. 373, no. 6550, pp. 43-47, <https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abi9010>.
The platform Social Innovation at TU Delft | Technology, Policy and Management are organizing a conference: “Social Innovation: Next steps in the energy transition” on 18-19 November. This free online conference is open to a wide audience and open for practitioners and scientists around the world. A panel on “Energy Transitions in Asia: Governance, Justice and Social Innovation” is soliciting papers.
Deadline for submission: 8 September
All proposals must be made via the online link form and put note to be included in the panel. Paper presentation should be approximately 15 minutes long, and proposals should consist of a title and abstract of 350 words.
Special issue: “A Social Contract of Conservation? Unpacking struggles over legitimacy in Latin America’s protected areas”
On behalf of Debates a Journal of Sociology from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP), is sharing the most recent Call for Papers. This is a special issue titled “A Social Contract of Conservation? Unpacking struggles over legitimacy in Latin America’s protected areas”, edited by PhD Mattias Borg Rasmussen (University of Copenhagen) and Dr. Deborah Delgado Pugley (PUCP).
Following thematic and contextual focus cover:
• Latin American “natural” territories conservation • Andean region “natural” territories conservation • Territorial projects in competition with livelihood and conservation projects • Power relations and legitimation disputes in conservation projects • NGOs, State institutions and international organizations interplay
Postponement of Conviviality: A nearly carbon-neutral conference
The Conference is co-hosted by Massey University Political Ecology Research Centre (PERC) and Wageningen University Centre for Space, Place, and Society (CSPS). In light of pandemic events taking place around the world and particularly with family, friends, and colleagues in India, the decision has been made to postpone the conference until 4-10 October 2021.
Webinar: Working towards a global plastic pollution treaty: Process and possibilities
This webinar will discuss why a growing number of countries have indicated support for a plastic pollution treaty and what it could look like. Dr. Farrelly is an environmental anthropologist with research expertise in the political ecology of plastic pollution including national, regional, and international plastic pollution policy; product stewardship; waste colonialism; and related social and environmental justice. She is co-founder of the New Zealand Product Stewardship Council and the Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance and has been a member of UNEA’s Expert Group and the United Nations Environment Programme’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Marine Litter and Microplastics since 2017.
New Namibia research project historicising conservation policy and practice
Sian Sullivan (Bath Spa University, UK), Ute Dieckmann (University of Cologne, Germany), and Selma Lendelvo (University of Namibia) are collaborating on a research project drawing on political ecology (amongst other approaches) to understand changing conservation policy and practice for an iconic conservation area in Namibia. Etosha-Kunene Histories proposes a multivocal and historical analysis that contributes new thinking on colonialism, indigeneity and ‘natural history’ in Namibia. (www.etosha-kunene-histories.net)
It aims to support laws and practice in biodiversity conservation to more fully recognise the diversity of pasts, cultures and natures constituting this internationally valued region. It is funded through a bilateral scheme of the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council and the German Research Foundation, and is supported by Namibia’s National Commission on Research, Science and Technology and Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism.
This month we are happy to introduce a new POLLEN node – the School of Social Sciences at the University of Western Australia. As always, we are also happy to share the latest publications from our lively community, CfPs, vacancies, and more. If your node is keen to feature your work in the upcoming newsletters, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s a great way to share and get dialogue around your work. We also welcome proposals for blog posts on the POLLEN blog – please contact us at the same email address with any ideas!
Each monthly newsletter includes a brief introduction to one of the many POLLEN nodes to help build connections across our community. This month we would like to introduce you to one of our newest nodes: the School of Social Sciences at the University of Western Australia.
University of Western Australia’s POLLEN node
The POLLEN node at the School of Social Sciences at the University of Western Australia (UWA) brings together faculty members, early career researchers, and graduate students. We live and work on unceded Noongar Whadjukland, at the edge of the Indian Ocean, in the most isolated major city in the world. Western Australia’s economy largely is based on resource extraction. The destruction of some of the world’s oldest cultural sites is ongoing, including a site that showed human occupancy dating back 46 thousand years–destroyed in 2020 to access iron ore. In this context, the group covers diverse elements of political ecology, including interdisciplinary scholars working in geography, international relations, political economy, media, anthropology, and sociology. Our POLLEN node here has regional expertise in Western Africa, Southern Africa, the Himalaya, South-East Asia, Brazil, and, of course, Australia. They plan on hosting university, city, and (eventually) Australia-wide events.
Alexander E Davis is a lecturer in international relations at the University of Western Australia, where he teaches foreign policy, international relations theory, and global environmental politics. His research looks at international politics from critical, postcolonial, and ecological perspectives, particularly in South Asia and the Himalaya. He is particularly interested in how borders, state-making geopolitical disputes effect local peoples and ecologies in the Himalaya. As such, he is currently writing a research monograph, The Geopolitics of Melting Mountains: An International Political Ecology of the Himalaya (Palgrave, 2020). He is head of the Australian Himalaya Research Network.
Alicea Garcia recently completed her PhD with the Department of Geography and Planning at The University of Western Australia. Her work spans critical scholarship on climate change adaptation, political ecology, climate justice, and transformation. Her PhD research investigated how uneven relations of power in Ghana maintain social inequalities and differential capacities to adapt to climate change in rural communities. Alicea is particularly interested in engaging with diverse stakeholders through participatory methods and creative approaches to co-learning. She is currently collaborating on a Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) project focused on (re)negotiating power to enhance resilience to climate change.
Catie Gressier is an Australian Research Council (DECRA) Fellow in Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Western Australia. Catie’s research examines settler descendants’ environmental engagements in Australia and Botswana, with a focus on foodways, interspecies relations, tourism, and health and illness. Her current interest is in rare and heritage breed livestock farming across Australia. She is an Editorial Board Member of Anthropological Forum, a Director of the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia, and a former University of Melbourne MacArthur Fellow.
Charan Bal is a Lecturer in Political Science at the School of Social Sciences, University of Western Australia. His research interests broadly lie in the areas of politics, governance, and development in Southeast Asia. He is interested in how economic development and political conflict influence the governance of transnational issues such as labour migration and climate change. His current projects include a comparative study of multilevel climate change governance in the EU and ASEAN, the proliferation of private disclosure-based climate initiatives in Singapore and Indonesia, and an assessment of Migration-for-Development programs across Southeast Asia.
Clare Mouat is a lecturer in Geography at the University of Western Australia. Her work champions growing and greening democracy by rethinking community and via transformative governance innovation. As a scholar-storyteller for just, care-full, healthy, and inclusive cities and places, she is passionate about co-producing feasible and radically progressive responses to the local and global challenges and crises facing us, our families, and seven million of our closest neighbours. This means understanding the ethics, politics, plans, roadblocks and exploring the various strategies and roadmaps towards the kinds of places where we want to live, work, and play.
Greg Acciaioli is Senior Honorary Research Fellow in Anthropology and Sociology at The University of Western Australia. Current research foci include the interface of the Indigenous peoples’ movement with resource contestations in Sulawesi and Borneo, particularly those concerning the impact of national parks and other protected areas, a critical assessment of the World Bank’s Social Capital Initiative, and the Village Law in Indonesia in the context of the current regime’s new developmentalism, farmer innovation from below in the context of new agricultural regulatory regimes in Indonesia, and the adaptation of Bajau identities under the impact of conservation and securitization upon Bajau Laut in Sabah, Malaysia, especially in regard to the consequences of their statelessness.
Karen Paiva Henrique is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Western Australia. Her work lies at the intersection of climate adaptation, urban development, and multiple dimensions of justice. Dr Henrique’s PhD research examined the politics of flood adaptation in São Paulo, Brazil, demonstrating how state practices entwine with exclusionary development trajectories while sketching more inclusive and sustainable approaches from below. Her current work investigates how people in Western Australia make individual and collective decisions and trade-offs to protect the many things they value against the multifaceted socio-ecological impacts of the global climate crisis.
Katarina Damjanov is senior lecturer in digital media and communication design at the University of Western Australia. Katarina’s research spans media and cultural studies and social studies of science and technology, revolving around considerations of digital technologies, the governance of media infrastructures and the environmental impact of technological progress. Her recent work situates these inquiries in outer space and features in journals such Science, Technology & Human Values, Space and Culture, Environment and Planning D, Mobilities, and Space Policy.
Linda Wilson is a PhD candidate (Geography) at UWA. Linda had a 20-year career in the natural resource management and renewable energy sectors before returning to academia. Her PhD research into beekeeper resource insecurity funded by the CRC for Honey Bee Products is focussed on the interplay between natural resource management and sustainable livelihoods. Her sustainability research approach uses historical ecology and economic geography to develop a system understanding of the emergent phenomenon in the case study population of Western Australia’s commercial beekeepers.
Petra Tschakert is the Centenary Professor in Rural Development in the Department of Geography and Planning, University of Western Australia. She is trained as a human-environment geographer and conducts research at the intersection of political ecology, climate change adaptation, environmental/ climate/ mobility/ multispecies justice, and livelihood security. Her current work explores intangible harm in the context of climate change, with emphasis on poverty, vulnerability, and inequalities, and how citizens make trade-offs between the many things they value and, collectively, negotiate resilient trajectories through the climate crisis. Prof. Tschakert combines critical social science insights with grounded, participatory methods for collective learning and social change.
Promoting POLLEN collaboration
Do you write with other members of POLLEN? To gain visibility for collaborations across our network, we invite you to consider adding something along these lines to your acknowledgments: “This paper represents collaborative work with colleagues in the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN).”
Morrison, R. 2021, The green republic, Waterside Productions, California.
Shapiro-Garza, L., Kolinjivadi, V., Van Hecken, G., Windey, C., & Casolo, J.J. 2021. ‘Praxis in resource geography: Tensions between engagement and critique in the (un)making of ecosystem services’, in M. Himley, E. Havice, & G. Valdivia (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Critical Resource Geography. Routledge, pp. 236-247.
Arora-Jonsson, S., Colfer, CP., & Gonalez-Hidalgo, M. 2021, ‘Seeing the Quiet Politics in Unquiet Woods: A different vantage point for a future forest agenda’, Human Ecology, <https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-021-00233-0>.
Boucher, J.L., Garfield T.K., Gina R.O., & Mark S.M. 2021, ‘From the suites to the streets: Examining the range of behaviors and attitudes of international climate activists’, Energy Research & Social Science, vol. 72, <https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2020.101866>.
Fair, H. 2021, ‘Playing with the Anthropocene: Board game imaginaries of islands, nature, and empire’, Island Studies Journal. Publication ahead of print: pp. 43-59, <https://doi.org/10.24043/isj.165>.
Lai, H.L. 2021, ‘Foregrounding the Community: Geo-Historical Entanglements of Community Energy, Environmental Justice, and Place in Taihsi Village, Taiwan’, Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, <https://doi.org/10.1177/25148486211000745>.
Machen, R., & Nost, E. 2021, ‘Thinking algorithmically: The making of hegemonic knowledge in climate governance’, Transactions of the Institute of the British Geographers, vol. 1, pp. 1-15, <https://doi.org/10.1111/tran.12441>.
Proposals should consist of a title, a (very) short abstract of <300 characters, and an abstract of 250 words. On submission the proposal, the proposing author (but not any co-authors listed) will receive automated email confirming receipt.
The deadline for submission is 2nd July 2021.
Eric Wolf Paper Prize
The Political Ecology Society (PESO) announces the 2021 Eric Wolf Prize for the best article-length paper. The competition offers a great opportunity as the prize pays registration fees for the Society for Applied Anthropology annual meeting, offers a feature presentation of the paper at this meeting, and publication in the Journal of Political Ecology!
To be eligible for the competition, scholars must be no more than two years past the completion of their Master’s or PhD degree. This includes scholars who have not yet received the PhD and Master’s students.
Multiple authored papers are considered as long as the first author meets the above criteria. Papers that are already under review at a journal are not accepted.
The deadline for submission is 30th August 2021.
Please anonymize the submission and use the style guidelines provided on the Journal of Political Ecology webpage: http://jpe.library.arizona.edu. As the winning paper will be published in the Journal of Political Ecology, the prize reviewers may request revisions before the item is published. Electronic submissions and further queries should be sent to Dr. Elisabeth Moolenaar (email@example.com).
The Department of Social and Policy Sciences invites applications for a post at the level of Lecturer (Assistant Professor) or Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in international development at the University of Bath. The Department is a world-class centre for research and teaching excellence, committed to interdisciplinary, impactful, and progressive research.
All applications must show how they meet the essential criteria outlined in the relevant job description. Applicants must make clear whether they are applying for the Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) or Lecturer (Assistant Professor) position. Applications must include an academic CV as well as a cover letter demonstrating how experience and expertise meet the criteria set out in the specification. Please visit the link below.
Other news items
The School of Human Ecology, Ambedkar University Delhi had organized four lectures in October-November 2020 as a part of its online Masterclass Series in Critical Agrarian Studies. Recordings of these four lectures (Agrarian Markets; Water; Democracy; Rural Conflict and Collective Action) are now available at the School’s YouTube channel below.
As always, we are excited to share news from around the POLLEN network. This month we are featuring the Center for Social Development Studies, the POLLEN node at the Faculty of Political Science in Chulalongkorn University. We also have CfPs, publications from our community, an invitation for a book review, vacancies, and more.
We also welcome contributions, conversations, or comments for the POLLEN blog! It’s a great way to share and get dialogue around your work. Feel free to check out our recent blog with Rogelio Luque-Lora’s review of “Convivial Conservation” with a response from the authors, Rob Fletcher and Bram Buscher – your comments are very welcome!. Also, please write to us at the above email address if you are interested in contributing to the blog.
Each monthly newsletter includes a brief introduction to one of the many POLLEN nodes to help build connections across our community. This month we would like to introduce you to the Center for Social Development Studies at the Faculty of Political Science in Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.
Chulalongkorn University’s POLLEN node
The Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS) was established in 1985 within the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. The CSDS produces interdisciplinary critical research on development policy and practice in Southeast Asia. Much of the research agenda relates to political ecology, including resource politics, regionalization, human rights and justice, the public sphere, the commons, and forced displacement and development. The CSDS supports young and mid-career researchers and public intellectuals via the Graduate Studies in International Development program, and by hosting research associates, interns, and fellowship programs. Since 2018, the CSDS has also hosted the Chulalongkorn University Center of Excellence on Resource Politics for Social Development. The CSDS regularly organizes public forums, conferences, and workshops for debating critical development issues, and co-organized and hosted the Political Ecology in Asia 2019 conference. Recently, the CSDS has initiated the Political Ecology in Asia dialogue series and Critical Nature policy analysis. The CSDS team includes Faculty members, graduate students, and research associates.
Carl Middleton is an Assistant Professor and Director of CSDS. His research interests orientate around the politics of the environment in Southeast Asia, focusing on the political ecology of water and energy, nature-society relations, social movements, and environmental justice. His most recent book, co-authored with Jeremy Allouche and Dipak Gyawali, is titled The Water–Food–Energy Nexus: Power, Politics and Justice (2019). Recent co-edited books are: Living with Floods in a Mobile Southeast Asia: A Political Ecology of Vulnerability, Migration and Environmental Change (2018; with Rebecca Elmhirst and Supang Chantavanich) and Knowing the Salween River: Resource Politics of a Contested Transboundary River (2019; with Vanessa Lamb).
Naruemon Thabchumpon is an Assistant Professor in Politics at the Faculty of Political Science, Deputy Director for Research Affairs at the Institute of Asian Studies, and Director of the Center of Excellence of the Asian Research Center for Migration, Chulalongkorn University. Her expertise is on comparative politics and democracy, cross-border migration, and human development. She received her MA and PhD from the School of Politics and International Studies of University of Leeds, United Kingdom. Her recent political ecology related research has been on “Living with and against Floods: Socio-Economic Adaptation of Communities in Bangkok and Thailand’s Central Plain” and on the economic and social impacts of Covid-19 focusing on people, planet and inclusive society.
Jakkrit Sangkhamanee is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science in Bangkok, Thailand. He earned a PhD in Anthropology from the Australian National University, with his dissertation focusing on the ontological entanglement in the construction of knowledge on water management in the Mekong region. His work focuses on STS, specifically hydrological engineering projects related to Thai state formation, environmental infrastructure, and environmental politics. His latest publication is “Bangkok Precipitated: Cloudbursts, Sentient Urbanity, and Emergent Atmospheres” in East Asian Science, Technology and Society (EASTS). Jakkrit also serves on the editorial board of Engaging Science, Technology, and Society.
Pongphisoot (Paul) Busbarat is Assistant Professor in International Relations at the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University. He holds a PhD in Political Science & IR from Australian National University and postgraduate degrees from Columbia University and Cambridge University. His research interests include great power competition in Southeast Asia, (especially the Mekong subregion), Thailand’s foreign policy, and norms and identity in IR. Currently, Paul is working on several research projects including the study of a normative construct influencing Thailand’s foreign policy choices between the United States and China, and a study of China’s regional leadership consolidation in the Mekong subregion. His most recent publication is ‘China and Mekong Regionalism: A Reappraisal of the Formation of Lancang-Mekong Cooperation’ in Asian Politics & Policy.
Jiraporn Laocharoenwong is a lecturer at the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Chulalongkorn University. In 2020, she obtained her PhD from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, entitled ‘Re-imagining the Refugee Camp: Sovereignty and Time-Space Formation Along the Thailand-Burma Borderland’. Her current research includes a project on ‘Governing the virus: Borders, Bio-power and Migrant Bodies in Thailand’, and one on animals crossing borders and the politics of commodities, pathogens and human-animal relations in the Southeast Asian Borderland with a grant from the National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO).
Chanatporn Limprapoowiwattana earned her PhD in Political Science 2020 from l’Université de Lausanne in Switzerland, with financial support from the Swiss Government. Her doctoral thesis was titled ‘Transnational Standardisation and the Global Production Network of Organic Rice: A Case Study of Thai Buddhist Connectivity.’ She is currently a post-doctoral researcher in CSDS researching on the urban political ecology and agri-food production networks of Bangkok City. This research seeks to understand how different practices of urban agriculture shape and reimagine the city. Overall, she is interested in exploring human-nature relationships and interactions in the context of political ecology and global food governance.
Orapan Pratomlek is the project coordinator for CSDS. She holds a MA in International-NGO Studies from the Faculty of Social Sciences, SungKongHoe University, Seoul, Republic of Korea. Her interest and work focus on issues related to the environment, social development, human rights, and empowerment. Her recent projects with CSDS have included: water governance research and a fellowship program on the Salween River; flooding and displacement in Hat Yai City, Southern Thailand; water governance and access to water in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar; and on community-based tourism in Thailand recovering from COVID.
Anisa Widyasari is currently leading the communications work for CSDS. She finished her LLM degree from the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Aside from preparing the communications materials for all CSDS’ project, she is also directly contributing to CSDS’ research and providing legal perspective, mainly on the issues related to water diplomacy and transboundary water governance. Prior to joining CSDS, she worked as Advocacy Officer for Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), where she led in the legal analysis of policies affecting press freedom and freedom of expression in Southeast Asia.
Thianchai Surimas is a PhD student in International Development Studies and Doctoral Researcher at CSDS, Chulalongkorn University. His doctoral research examines hydropolitics in the Ing River, Northern Thailand. The research aims to reveal multiple ontologies of water and its ontological politics, and to understand tensions and cooperation between multiple ontologies of water among networks of human and non-human things that are involved in water-related conflicts. The research employs a hydrosocial perspective as an analytic approach. Thianchai’s research interests include environmental justice, environmental politics and policy, climate change, migration, livelihoods, development and socio-environmental change.
Sara K. Phillips is a Doctoral Researcher with the CSDS, where her work focuses on resource development decision-making, investigating how the law enables structural inequalities that lead to mining conflicts. At Chulalongkorn University, her doctoral research examines how actors utilize norms to shape the resource development lifecycle. Sara is a Visiting Lecturer with the Center for Global Law and Policy at Santa Clara University and a Doctoral Fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute. She is a qualified attorney and holds a J.D. from Vermont Law School, an LL.M. from McGill University, and a B.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Ma. Josephine Therese Emily G. Teves is a third-year doctoral candidate in International Development Studies in the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University. She is also a research fellow on the NUS-ARI Graduate Student and Online Training and Mentorship Programme on Human Rights and Peace Research for 2021. Her research examines the impacts of agrarian reform initiatives to Philippine Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs), including the impact of Japan ODA’s farm-to-market infrastructure provision in agricultural development, ARBs’ right to land, the skewed land distribution in the Philippines, and challenges of impact evaluation of infrastructure aspect in agrarian reform programs.
Thita Ornin has interests in sustainability, peace, and social and personal well-being. She has experience in research and program development and execution in various areas including sustainable consumption and production, sustainable agriculture and livelihoods, labour rights, and urban and rural livelihoods. Thita is currently a Program Officer for the Professional Development Program on Peace and Development Studies at the Rotary Peace Center, and a PhD Candidate in International Development Studies, Chulalongkorn University. Her PhD thesis is titled ‘Post-Development and Post-Growth through the Dynamics of Alternative Agriculture Movements in Thailand’, through which she aims to contribute to understanding alternatives that can be transformative of development studies.
Thanawat Bremard is a doctoral student from the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development based both in the Joint Research Unit “Water Management, Actors, Territories” in Montpellier, France and in the CSDS, Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok, Thailand. With a background in socio-anthropology, he has been working on issues of water governance in Thailand since 2017, with a particular focus on the Bangkok Metropolitan Region for his thesis. His current research focuses on the politics of groundwater and subsidence governance, the spatialized decision-making around flood governance in eastern Bangkok and the institutional interplay around urban river governance.
Promoting POLLEN collaboration
Do you write with other members of POLLEN? To gain visibility for collaborations across our network, we invite you to consider adding something along these lines to your acknowledgments: “This paper represents collaborative work with colleagues in the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN).”
Luque-Lora, R. 2021, Convivial Conservation: book review and authors’ response, Political Ecology Network, 28 May, <https://politicalecologynetwork.org/ 2021/05/28/convivial-conservation-book-review-and-authors-response/>
Boafo, J. & Lyons, K., 2021, ‘The rhetoric and farmers’ lived realities of the green revolution in Africa: Case study of the Brong Ahafo region in Ghana’, Journal of Asian and African Studies, <https://doi-org/10.1177/00219096211019063>
Movik, S., Benjaminsen, T.A. & Richardson, T. 2021, ‘Making maps, making claims: the politics and practices of visualisation in environmental governance’, Landscape Research, Vol. 46, No. 2, pp. 143-151 <DOI: 10.1080/01426397.2021.1879034>
The 2020 Royal Anthropological Society conference will be held 25 to 29 October 2021 online with a theme of Anthropology and Conservation. A panel on “Market-Based Instruments for Conservation and Indigenous Peoples”, panel P063 is soliciting papers. All proposals must be made via the online form by 2 July 2021, and decisions will be conveyed to proposers by 16 July.
Papers should be approximately 15 minutes long, and proposals should consist of a title, a (very) short abstract of <300 characters, and an abstract of 250 words.
Journal of Posthumanism invites contributions to the second issue of the Journal of Posthumanism, an international peer-reviewed scholarly journal promoting innovative work to transverse the fields ranging from social sciences, humanities, and arts to medicine and STEM.
Submission Deadline: 2 August 2021
All submissions should follow the latest guidelines of APA style referencing. You are welcome to submit full-length papers (5000-6000 words), commentaries (1000-2000 words), book reviews, interviews, and artistic works.
Palgrave Handbook of Southern Green Criminology invites chapter proposals.
This handbook is the ultimate collection of essays reflecting the growth and diversity of Southern Green Criminology. Therefore, this call seeks to attract original thinkers from the Global South who are creators and carriers of Southern epistemologies. Additionally, this publication pursues ethnic, gender and geographical representativity.
If you are interested, please send an abstract of between 120 and 200 words as soon as possible to firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest submission deadline is 1st July 2021.
The complete first drafts are due March 20, 2022 and the total word length is between 7.000 and 8.000 words.
The book engages in a multi-scalar political ecological analysis of the climate crisis and seeks to articulate a geography of climate justice. It presents a layered analysis of the global and local politics of climate change, including case studies featuring India and Nepal.
The publisher offers a complimentary copy for review. Any interested reviewers could directly contact, Matt Shobbrook, Editorial Assistant: email@example.com for a complimentary copy of the book (print or digital).
4 PhD positions at Wageningen University: Living rivers and new water justice movements
Are you interested in understanding how different actors know, value, and strive to shape river systems in diverging ways? Do you want to learn specifically about approaches for enlivening rivers that are promoted by grassroots water justice movements? Then this could be the perfect PhD opportunity for you!
The University of Barcelona School of Economics is organizing a summer school on Ecological and Feminist Macroeconomics held during 12-16 July 2021.
If you are interested in pluralist economics and new economics, you can’t miss this course! Some of the best scholars from both ecological and feminist economics will introduce the topics and present their cutting-edge research.
Despite conservationists’ best efforts, global biological diversity continues to disappear at alarming rates. According to political ecologists Bram Büscher and Robert Fletcher, this is, to a large extent, a consequence of mainstream conservation not addressing biodiversity declines in the right ways. The authors acknowledge that there is significant variation in mainstream approaches to conservation, but that two fundamental premises are dominant. Firstly, a stark dualism, both material and epistemological, between human and nonhuman nature. This dualism carries the normative implication that nature ought to be saved from humans – hence the historical focus on protected areas as the cornerstone of global conservation. The second premise of mainstream conservation is its embrace, ideological or pragmatic, of the capitalist development model. As the authors explain, the histories of capitalism and conservation are entwined, with conservation having emerged as a response to the increasing destruction wrought by capitalist development. In practical terms, conservationists often decide that it is more productive to partner with capitalist interests to generate the funds needed for their projects than to fight against the dominant political economy.
According to Büscher and Fletcher, the recognition that mainstream conservation is failing to save biodiversity has triggered the recent appearance of more radical approaches. As the authors explain in the opening paragraph of their book, the last decade has seen growing urgency and pressure on both the natural world and the conservation community, which has led many to conclude that gradual, stepwise improvements to mainstream conservation will not suffice to prevent worldwide ecological catastrophes. Taken together, the authors contend, these are good reasons to believe that a revolution in conservation is underway.
Büscher and Fletcher identify two major radical alternatives to mainstream conservation, the main features of which can be apprehended from how they position themselves with respect to its two fundamental premises. The first group, new conservationists, reject nature-culture dualism while showing enthusiasm for working within capitalist processes and logics. They endorse the view that in the Anthropocene pristine nature independent of human impacts no longer exists. Therefore, rather than try – and fail – to protect perceived wilderness areas from human activities, new conservationists argue that the natural world ought to be integrated into the capitalist economy. The hope is that once the (capitalist) value of nature is taken into consideration, humans and nature can develop in harmony.
The dehesas of the Iberian peninsula have developed through the action and coexistence of wildlife, livestock and humans. In them, any notion of stark dualism between humans and nature falls apart. Source: author’s own.
The second group, neoprotectionists, firmly oppose both these claims. According to the loudest voices within neoprotectionism, it is a gross exaggeration to think that because human activities are leaving a mark on planetary processes, all species and ecosystems are now dependent on human will. The only real way to save biodiversity is to have more numerous, larger and better-connected areas where nonhuman natures can continue to live in ways largely independent of human activities. The most radical neoprotectionists think that at least half of the Earth’s surface must be set aside for “inviolable” nature reserves. For the most part, neoprotectionists see the rising consumption trends and endless economic growth that characterise capitalism as key drivers of biodiversity loss.
A closer reading of the history of conservation ideas, however, calls into question the authors’ accounts of new conservation and neoprotectionism as recent, radical challenges to mainstream conservation. While new conservation presents itself as a novel approach fit for conservation in the Anthropocene, the ideas behind it are at least decades old. In a paper published in 1999, development scholar David Hulme and social anthropologist Marshall Murphree described the then-recent shift in African conservation toward approaches that were people-centred and promoted economic growth. Strikingly, they named this shift “new conservation”. Similarly, the fact that new conservation’s radical counterpart is effectively called new protectionism should also raise suspicions about its novelty. Conservation interventions that aim to protect pristine nature from human activities date back at least to the nineteenth century Romantic cult of wilderness.
To be sure, new conservation and neoprotectionism are not carbon copies of their respective predecessors. It is clear that the advent of the Anthropocene has given new conservation and neoprotectionism scalar dimensions not seen in the traditions from which they derive. In the case of new conservation, this is manifested in their call to embrace the global ubiquity of human influence on the rest of nature. In neoprotectionism, it is the scaling up of protected areas to set aside half of the planet’s surface for inviolable nature reserves that is novel. Yet these differences are operational rather than ideological. New conservation’s embrace of human influence stems from their pragmatic belief that protecting wild areas for their own sake has not worked. In the case of neoprotectionism, the values behind proposals to protect half of the planet are indistinct from twentieth century ecocentrism and deep ecology.
The similarities between new conservation and neoprotectionism and their respective predecessors are not exclusively theoretical. The ideologies promoted by new conservationists and neoprotectionists, far from rejecting mainstream conservation practices, actually align with many of them. For instance, decades-old community-based conservation and payments for ecosystem services both fit the new conservationist paradigm of promoting human wellbeing and integrating the natural world into the economy. Similarly, the fact that neoprotectionism has also been called “back-to-the-barriers” indicates that many of the practices they endorse have been deployed for a long time. If the ideological stances and the practices promoted by new conservation and neoprotectionism, which Büscher and Fletcher identify as new and radical, are in fact decades old, the authors’ claim that a revolution is brewing is compromised.
Perhaps most worryingly for their accounts of new conservation and neoprotectionism as radical challenges to mainstream conservation is the number of caveats the authors find in this very classification. Büscher and Fletcher successfully show why both new conservationists’ rejection of nature/culture dualism and neoprotectionists’ scepticism of the capitalist economy are shallow and unfounded. As the authors demonstrate, nature/culture dualism is inherent to capitalism, so by embracing the capitalist political economy, new conservationists fundamentally undermine their aim of overcoming dualism. With respect to neoprotectionism, Büscher and Fletcher convincingly argue that, although neoprotectionists are right to claim that integrating biodiversity into the global capitalist market will not save it, the protected areas they promote cannot be sustained indefinitely against capitalism’s inherent need to grow beyond its own frontiers. Moreover, in practice, the strict protected areas championed by neoprotectionism are often funded by processes that rely on capitalist exchanges, such as ecotourism and philanthropy. A more accurate conclusion of these critical analyses is that these supposedly radical approaches are merely episodic and rhetorical variations on a more broadly defined mainstream conservation.
The authors’ legitimate dissatisfaction with new conservation and neoprotectionism leads them to develop their own radical proposal, which they call “convivial conservation”. Convivial conservation seeks to be truly post-capitalist and offers a range of short- and long-term suggestions for moving beyond capitalist conservation. One example is the transition from traditional protected areas to so-called promoted areas. In and around these areas, people’s livelihoods would be based not on capitalist enterprises like ecotourism, but on activities including the sustainable use of natural resources and a “conservation basic income”, which would be funded through the state, promoted area entrance fees and crowd sourcing. On a broader scale, the recognition that the success of convivial conservation ultimately depends on the global dismantling of capitalism also requires conservationists to challenge hegemonic power through campaigning and other forms of political action.
The second pillar of convivial conservation is its rejection of human-nature dualism. According to the authors, nature and society must be viewed not as separate but rather as mutually related and co-constituted, a conclusion to which they arrive after reviewing a range of Anthropocene scholars, including Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing and Jason Moore. But while convivial conservation wholly rejects capitalism, its takedown of human-nature dualism is partial. Büscher and Fletcher argue that in seeking to bring other species and abiotic processes back into moral and political focus, more-than-human, animal, new materialist, and posthumanist theorists have “swung the pendulum much too far” and erased many meaningful and necessary distinctions between humans and other creatures. While urging us to accept and rejoice in the plurality of connections and similarities between humans and nonhumans, the authors wish to retain some form of human exceptionalism.
The reason for this is the realisation that without some form of human exceptionality, any attempt to establish healthier relations with nonhuman natures are bound to fail. There is little in the natural world that is inherently convivial (which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “the quality of being lively and friendly”). Covid-19, malaria-spreading mosquitoes, and crop-raiding elephants are examples of the indifference of nonhuman natures to human wellbeing. Even seemingly harmonious natural states, such as the (perceived) balance of ecosystems, are the product of forces utterly indifferent to the lives of individual organisms (one such force is the killing of prey species by predators at rates that compensate for the production of offspring in far greater numbers than their habitats can sustain). As Lao Tzu may have put it, “heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs”.
For human beings to transcend this ruthlessness and voluntarily establish stable and reciprocal relations with the rest of the natural world, they must have the capacity to function as intentional political and moral agents. As far as we know, this ability is absent in all nonhuman species, at least in the measure that would be required for the major societal changes that this book promotes. Kate Soper has made a similar point:
Unless human beings are differentiated from other organic and inorganic forms of being, they can be made no more liable for the effects of their occupancy of the ecosystem than can any other species, and it would make no more sense to call upon them to desist from destroying nature than to call upon cats to stop killing birds.
Yet the only reason for accepting human exceptionalism that is provided throughout the book is that it is required for convivial ecological politics to emerge. This does not prove human exceptionalism to be true; it only proves that without it, the kind of conservation that the authors envision is an impossibility.
During summer months, drought and high temperatures in the Mediterranean habitats kill all non-woody vegetation and put animals at risk of starvation and dehydration. “Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs.” Source: author’s own.
Though it was published nearly two decades ago, John Gray’s Straw Dogs (which takes its title from the Lao Tzu quote above) can be read as a provocative antagonist to The Conservation Revolution. Like many of the posthumanist writers reviewed by Büscher and Fletcher, Gray seeks to present a less human-centred view of the world. The idea that humans are categorically distinct from other animals is, according to Gray, largely a Judeo-Christian invention, which humanist thinkers have unknowingly inherited despite their atheist credentials. Had Darwin published his work in Daoist China or the pre-Columbian Americas, the suggestion that animals are our evolutionary kin would not have caused the uproar it did in Christian Europe.
Straw Dogs is not oblivious to the troubling implications of erasing distinctions between humans and the rest of the natural world. On the contrary: it lays them bare. According to Gray, lacking the qualities that supposedly set us apart from other animals (most notably the capacity for free will and the volition to act morally) implies that we can expect the biosphere to treat us in much the same ways it treats other organisms: eventually, negative feedback processes, like diseases and shortages of natural resources, will push back against Homo sapiens. These are bleak prospects, so one serious challenge for convivial conservationists is to prove not just that human exceptionalism is necessary, but also that there are theoretical and empirical grounds for believing it to be true.
Work in other areas is also needed to show convivial conservation to be viable. There is no shortage of examples of human greed, folly, indifference and ecological devastation from both before the advent of global capitalism and in non-capitalist economies since. While the authors’ contention that capitalism is inherently unsustainable is in principle convincing, they and others now need to show that whatever might replace it will do better at reining in those ecologically undesirable human traits. Büscher and Fletcher have shown that conservationists’ aims of preserving nonhuman natures are unlikely to be met without a revolution in their approaches and partnerships. Now they and their sympathisers need to show that such a revolution is possible, and that its outcomes will be desirable.
Response by Rob Fletcher and Bram Buscher
We would like to thank Rogelio Luque-Lora for his thoughtful and sympathetic treatment of our book. He raises a number of important issues concerning our analysis of contemporary conservation debates and their implications for future practice that warrant discussion and engagement. We want to take this opportunity to respond to two of Luque-Lora’s assertions that we find most significant in the context of ongoing political ecology debates.
First, Luque-Lora argues that the two recent proposals for reforming conservation we single out– new conservation and neoprotectionism – are not really so novel and radical as depicted. In part this is a semantic question concerning how one chooses to define these particular qualities. This framing of positions were also meant as part of a broader heuristic model that through simplification helps to clarify the stakes and issues in current conservation debates. But our main aim in describing these provocative approaches in this way was not necessarily to claim that they were in fact novel and radical, but that they had both been characterized as such – that is, as calls to dramatically transform dominant conservation policy and practice – by their proponents. This common self-characterization – and the invitation it offered to question mainstream conservation approaches in even more transformative fashion – was what we sought to highlight. Given that they have led to major and very heated debates within the conservation community, it is clear that some of their proposals and arguments were also seen as radical challenges by many others. But through illustrating and analysing this in detail, we at the same time concluded that the two proposals were really not as novel and radical as proponents claimed. Besides demonstrating that both positions are indeed rooted in longstanding strains of thought emerging from mainstream conservation approaches, the more important point for us was that both continue to harbour deep-seated contradictions that cannot provide a productive way forward for conservation policy. This is why our analysis led to our suggested and preferred alternative of convivial conservation.
The second, and to our minds more intriguing issue thatLuque-Lora raises with our analysis concerns the question of human exceptionalism and its implications for the convivial approach we advocate. As Luque-Lora describes, we pull back from the sort of radical critique of the nature-culture dualism levelled by many other critical social scientists aiming to dismantle (nearly) all divides between humans and other entities. Instead, we reassert that some degree of differentiation between humans and others, as well as between nature and culture more broadly, is not just simple realism, but necessary to be able to wage an effective environmental politics. If this is not done, we argued, there is no way to single out humans’ impacts on the rest of the world as unique and hence uniquely problematic.
But we are not the only ones who assert the necessity of human exceptionalism in this way. While ecocentric critics often decry anthropocentrism in conservation policy, they nonetheless (and paradoxically) demand just this in asking that humans reflect on and change the way we interact with other species to become ecocentric in the manner demanded. No other species (short of outlier proposals such as to alter predators’ behavior through gene-editing; see e.g. Johannsen 2017) are asked to do (or likely considered capable of doing) the same. Hence this stance assumes a unique human capacity on which the politics advocated necessarily relies. In short: a conviction that humans possess the capacity to move beyond human exceptionalism is arguably the most exceptionally human capacity that distinguishes us from other animals.
Yet, as Luque-Lora argues, just because human exceptionalism may be necessary for effective conservation politics does not automatically make it reality. But we believe there is strong evidence to support its reality too. It is true and important that many qualities considered uniquely human by Western thinkers in the Cartesian tradition in the past – language use, sociality, self-consciousness, proactive planning, and so forth – have now been called into question by research that convincingly demonstrates their presence among other species (see e.g. De Waal 2016). Yet even if these qualities are not wholly unique to humans, we still believe that they are consequentially different in humans as compared to other animals (see Büscher, in press). Hence, whether human-nonhuman differences are of degree rather than of kind is in many ways a moot point with respect to ecological politics, since they remain significant in their consequences. One piece of rather straightforward if superficial evidence to substantiate this point is the fact that Luque-Lora is debating these issues with us and other people rather than with non-humans.
Less trite and more important for our convivial conservation proposal is the human capacity to exercise conviviality with respect to the rest of the world, on which Luque-Lora rightly asserts that our proposal depends. Interestingly, he questions whether this same capacity exists not only in humans but also more-than-humans. Drawing on Lao Tzu and John Gray, he contends that “nature” is widely characterized by a certain exercise of and indifference to cruelty and suffering. But this overlooks the fact that various nonhumans also exhibit a capacity for compassion and altruism (see e.g. Sussman & Cloninger 2011).
In her own meditations on the topic, Jane Goodall (2010) has asserted that what distinguishes humans from other animals, even close relatives like chimpanzees, is our uniquely intense capacity both to inflict violence and cruelty and to exercise compassion and kindness. This, Goodall argues, is evidenced by our waging of lethal warfare on a scale beyond any other known species and by the unprecedented ways in which we also care for our sick and injured. The takeaway point for us from this is that a hard-nosed, realistic conservation politics needs to acknowledge both of these uniquely intense human capacities, but especially to emphasise the possibility and need to cultivate the positive capacities in ourselves and others. Moreover, how our different capacities are expressed, we believe, is fundamentally shaped by the sociocultural, historical and political-economic structures in which we exist; hence our emphasis on the importance of attending to these structures in addition to a focus on immediate human-nonhuman interactions in order to foster the (democratic, equitable) conditions in which (commodified) competition (both intra- and interspecies) can be minimized and space for conviviality expanded.
We take the call to push this further very seriously, and deliberately ended our book by saying that we join all of those already working for transformative structural change with hope. Hope, clearly, is not enough to demonstrate that our proposal is better than what currently exists. But in the face of widespread ecosystemic breakdown, species extinctions and obscene inequalities, we do need this yet-again exceptional human quality to give it our best shot. We invite Luque-Lora and others to join us in this movement.
Büscher, B. (in press). The nonhuman turn: critical reflections on alienation, entanglement and nature under capitalism. Dialogues in Human Geography.
De Waal, F. (2016). Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are? London: WW Norton & Company.
Goodall, J. (2010). Through a window: My thirty years with the chimpanzees of Gombe. London: HMH.
Johannsen, K. (2017). Animal rights and the problem of r-strategists. Ethical theory and moral practice, 20(2), 333-345.
Sussman, R. W., & Cloninger, C. R. (Eds.). (2011). Origins of altruism and cooperation. New York: Springer.