Workshop ‘Social Ecology meets Political Ecology’

We will host a workshop at the Frankfurt node at ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research on the above topic. In 3 sessions we will explore the topics ‘Researching social-ecological conflicts – Bringing non-human entities into the analysis’ and ‘Synergy or contrast? When political ecology theoretical claims meet practical transdisciplinary challenges in social-ecological research projects’.

The workshop takes place on June 28 14:00-17:30 CET and June 29 14:00-18:00 CET. Participants can register online under the following links:

Topic 1: Researching social-ecological conflicts – Bringing non-human entities into the analysis (Day 1 and 2)

Research on environmental conflicts analyses mainly conflicts between social actors such as conflicts about resource distribution and access. These analyses generally treat nature as an object of contestations or stressor in human-nature interactions. Few authors from different research fields already started to incorporate non-human entities in the analysis asking for their active role and effects in environmental conflicts. As non-human entities, we understand for example animals, plants, soil, rivers, geomorphological formations and things. Incorporating non-humans as agents in the analysis enables to show the entanglements of social actors and non-human entities, which is key for opening up new understandings of the emergence, development and (non-)solution of environmental conflicts. These interrelations can have the form of a network, assemblage, interactions or interdependencies. The interrelations between society and nature are the research topic of Social Ecology and therefore we propose the new term of social-ecological conflicts, whose analysis treats social actors and non-human entities in an integrated way in the conflict analysis. This may involve integration of multiple ways of researching non-hu-mans, ranging from inter- and transdisciplinary approaches combining socio-empirical research methods and natural science methods applied to non-human conflict parties. We want to take stock of the different approaches to non-humans in environmental conflicts to discuss a defini-tion of social-ecological conflicts, the role and effect of non-human entities in conflicts and suit-able methods for the analysis of non-human entities as agents in social-ecological processes. We furthermore seek to explore the potential of social-ecological conflict analysis for conflict trans-formation.

Topic 2: Synergy or contrast? When political ecology theoretical claims meet practical transdisciplinary challenges in social-ecological research projects (Day 2)

Addressing crises in societal relations to nature involves co-creation of knowledge among multiple disciplines and practitioners. Research in transdisciplinary mode involves collaboration with key stakeholders from problem framing to deriving conclusions. At the same time, crises in societal relations to nature are tied to power imbalances, for instance in shaping discourse on ‘sustainability problems’. Addressing these in a transdisciplinary setting involves a series of practical questions, starting from the distribution of funding among the research and practice partners involved in a transdisciplinary research project, especially when conducted in North-South collaborations. Political ecology offers an enriching conceptual framework for systematically illuminating power asymmetries and uneven distributions of environmental change causes and impacts. While critical analyses provide key insights on how power relations reproduce crises in societal relations to nature, solution-oriented conclusions are rarely drawn. Here linking a political ecology lens with those of applied research and of practitioners appears promising. Transdisciplinary research implies the ambition of developing specific solutions towards sustainable and just development by bringing together multiple forms of knowledge. However, a tension evolves around normativity. Researchers are themselves embedded in a web of power relations, and often witness sensitive situations. They thus have to constantly reflect on being both, analytical observers and participants in social transformation processes. Against this backdrop, the panel seeks to take stock of challenges evolving around seeming contradictions, e.g. when working with actors who are subject to criticism, and the thereby arising double roles of actors involved (research subject, partner, analytical observer, participant in transformation) within applied research processes. We furthermore seek to explore the ethics of linking political ecology and transdisciplinary research approaches, methodologically and theoretically. In short, the panel aims to elaborate synergies and contradictions of political ecology approaches in relation to transdisciplinary social-ecological research.

Panel CfP for 2019 SANA/SUNTA Conference: Relocalizing Agriculture in a Transnational World

Below please find a call for papers for a student proposed panel at the joint Society for the Anthropology of North America and the Society for Urban, National, and Transnational Anthropology conference this May, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The conference theme is “Positive Futures.”  

Apologies if you’re seeing this a second time – had some technical issues when I tried to post it previously!

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Relocalizing Agriculture in a Transnational World: Place, Markets, and Migration  

Panel Co-Organizers: Alex Korsunsky (Vanderbilt University) and Emily Ramsey (University of Georgia)

Panel Co-Chairs: Emily Ramsey and Alex Korsunsky  

Whether to address neo-Malthusian concerns of population increase, global food insecurity, or the effects of climate change, agriculture and food systems are critical sites at which to enact change that will vitally shape both human and environmental futures. Scholars, farmers, and consumers look to alternative food systems to provide promising paths forward from the problems many identify within current global agro-industrial food systems. This proposed panel at the 2019 Society for the Anthropology of North America/Society for Urban, National, and Transnational Anthropology Spring Conference asks what positive futures farmers imagine for themselves and others, the affective and cultural meanings they attach to their work, and how their projects interact with and illuminate agro-ecological and political-economic regimes at a variety of scales. How do alternative food systems and practices function as placemaking projects, and how do they gather and mobilize particular social and ecological relationships? How do interactions with particular places, movements, and markets inform the formation of identities and subjectivities? To what extent are practitioners and stakeholders active in relocalizing and perhaps even decommodifying agricultural economies in the face of capitalist agro-industry?   Despite a discursive opposition of local, alternative agriculture and globalized agribusiness, transnational connections have long been important within agriculture and food systems due to reliance on immigrant and migrant farm laborers. These connections continue to expand with the rapidly growing number of immigrant and minority farm operators in the U.S. How do these farmers and farm laborers engage with alternative food production or straddle an agro-industrial/alternative divide? In what ways might alternative food systems represent a sort of bottom-up globalization (sensu Escobar 2001), pushing the boundaries of how we define local food? And in what ways do immigrant farmers and laborers find and create cultural, affective, and strategic value in agriculture and construct their food and farming practices as spaces of hybridity and transnational practice? In examining these transnational agriculturalists, their identities, and practices, this panel also seeks to challenge and expand upon the traditional ways that the positive futures associated with alternative food systems are conceived.  

Organizers of this panel are doctoral students who work with immigrant farmers and farm laborers in the Northwest and Southeastern U.S., respectively. We invite a variety of perspectives on the ways in which identities are articulated through or remade by engagement with food systems and political and folk-ecologies across multiple scales.   Interested participants should send an abstract of no more than 250 words to both Emily Ramsey (emily.ramsey@uga.edu) and Alex Korsunsky (alexander.s.korsunsky@vanderbilt.edu) no later than February 21, 2019. In addition to the abstract, include the title of the paper, the author’s name, affiliation, and email.

Conference Logistics: The conference takes place at the Hilton Caribe in San Juan, Puerto Rico from May 2-5, 2019. Students and local residents can participate in the conference for free, while underemployed faculty members qualify for a reduced registration rate. Membership in SANA or SUNTA is not required to participate. Registration for the conference must be made by March 1st, 2019 at 3pm EST to submit an abstract and participate.  

Reference Escobar, Arturo. 2001. “Culture sits in places: Reflections on globalism and subaltern strategies of localization.” Political Geography 20: 139-174.