CfP POLLEN20 – The Enemy of Kinship & Kinship with the Enemies: Beyond Invasive Species and Ecosystem Services Parasites

Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20)
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organizers

Please send your abstracts by the 21st of November to Karin Ahlberg, Stockholm University ( and Panos Kompatsiaris, Higher School of Economics, Moscow (

Session description

In his book the ‘Metamorphoses of Kinship’ (2011), the anthropologist Maurice Godelier speaks about the transformations and shifts in the kinship structures of modern Western societies. Departing from an understanding of kinship based on blood and reproduction, Godelier argues, modern societies gradually move to more open and extensive kinship networks beyond the confines of the biological contract. For Godelier then, this fluidity/ expansion of kinship relations is expressed in the rise of divorces, same sex partnerships, surrogate pregnancies and generally relations in which the levels of proximities are not necessarily dictated by ‘blood’. The socialization of animals and their increasing placement within human proximities can be seen as part of the same process of expanding kinship structures.

With this session we would like to explore and interrogate this opening of kinship networks as it leaks out beyond the human to include animals, microbes and plants, as companions and pets, or simply as entangled codependents of human life and earthly cohabitants. In many ways, the moral mandate for this opening has recently been proposed by several theorists as a question of justice. For instance, from her Species Companion Manifesto in 2003 to her recent Staying with Trouble, Donna Haraway puts forward the idea of ‘making kin’ with non-human others as an ethical imperative based on what Cary Wolfe calls an ‘ethics of compassion’ (2010: 41). Furthermore, Wolfe’s own call for ‘trans-species affinities’ (2010), Timothy  Morton’s call for ‘solidarity’ (2017) or Rosi Braidotti’s call for ‘cross species affection’ (2013) are some of the instances when this ethical mandate for compassion translates to a certain dispensing with the human while kinship networks expand. Yet, other forms of living with the others and through extended codependent networks of life—beyond categories of human exceptionalism, culture over nature, domesticated and wild, free and exploited—have long been practices by indigenous populations as well as other species (MacCormack and Strathern 1980, Ingold 1986, cf. Decola 2013), practices and scholarship that constitute the backbone of these latest trends.

Together, this line of work has also unveiled the anthropocentric tendency that underpins analyses of ecosystems in terms of the ‘services’ they provide, or the labor that plants and animals perform for human benefits, profits or landscape engineering (Orion 2015). The problematic inherent in kinship hierarchies and landscape engineering is most visible in the frameworks that render native species (or close kin) as ‘good’ compare to alien and, in particular, invasive species that are  labelled and treated as threatening outsides (Ticktin 2017). Worldwide, organizations and policies engage in pesticide, herbicide and other forms of more, and less, benign warfare against especially foreign supposedly harmful species, often with the pretext to save other species (Kompatsiaris 2018). Under the ‘gendered pretext’ (Hage 2003) to restore and care for damaged ecosystems, a range of killing techniques (-cides) are used – chemical methods, burning or catching and killing – with the result that not only the unwanted other but other species are put at risk (Orion 2015).

This panel sets to explore kinship with the so called ‘enemy’ or ‘subaltern non-human other,’ that critically engage with practices of entangled life beyond the perhaps biggest enemy of the kinship concept – that of false proximity and nativeness.

  • We seek papers that examine how the ethical imperative for kinship and compassion with non-human otherness works via the figure of the parasite, the unwanted species and the invader. The figure of the parasite poses a dialectical intrusion to the affirmative theories of animal love by reinserting antagonism and at the same time opens up the possibility of new forms of coexistence and theorizing life on earth.
  • We seek contributions outside the paradigm of bloodline species-bound kinship and that of ‘invasion ecology’. We are interested in research that reveals insights into ‘unintended’ co-living, eco-symbiosis, syn-poesis or simply love beyond the confines of blood and species kin, that investigates the entangled becoming of mobile and less mobile species and matters in a changing world, or that illustrates how new combinations and lives appear – with, against and beyond human-made categories of us and them, native and foreign.
  • We also welcome contributions that critically engage with interventions in ecosystems in the name of biodiversity or salvage stewardship. In addition, scholarship on exploitation of non-humans species as laborers, for human wellbeing, profit and vision of ideal landscapes are also appreciated.

In sum, we seek research that allows us to see the already practiced entangled becoming beyond kinship as nativeness and blood.


Braidotti, R. (2013) The Post-Human. Cambridge: Polity Press

Descola, P (2013) Beyond nature and culture. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press

Hage, G. (2003). Against paranoid nationalism: Searching for hope in a shrinking society. Annandale, NSW.: Pluto Press.

Haraway, D. (2003) Species Companion Manifesto: Dogs, People and Significant Otherness. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Haraway,  D. (2016) Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press

Godelier, M. (2011) The Metamorphoses of Kinship. London: Verso

Ingold, T. (1986). The appropriation of nature: Essays on human ecology and social relations. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Kompatsiaris, P. (2018) “Aliens in the Mediterranean Sea: Monstrous Fish and the (Im)Possibilities of Kinship with Non-Human Others” The Enemy, 1.

MacCormack, C. P., & Strathern, M. (1980). Nature, culture, and gender. Cambridge [Eng.]; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Morton, T. (2017) Humankind: Solidarity with Non-Human People. London: Verso

Orion, T. (2015) Beyond the war on invasive species: A permaculture approach to ecosystem restoration. Chelsea Green Publishing.

Ticktin, M. (2017). “Invasive others: Toward a contaminated world.” Social Research: An International Quarterly, 84(1), xxi-xxxiv.

Wolfe, C. (2010) What is Posthumanism? Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

CfP POLLEN20 – Invasion/contagion : Entanglements of racialisation and biology in the making of policed natures

Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organizers

Patricia J. Lopez (Dartmouth College) and Naomi Millner (University of Bristol).

Please send abstracts to Naomi Millner ( and Tish Lopez ( by 15 November 2019. We will respond to submissions by November 20.

Session description

“Contagion stories” (Wald 2008) and “invasive species” narratives articulate global and local fears of biological insecurity that at once depend upon, and reinforce, racialized anxieties about connectivity and intrusion. Taken together, these anxieties highlight ongoing entanglements of racialization and biology that begin with colonial encounters and stretch into the present through practices of identification, monitoring, bureaucratic ordering, policing and containment, to name just a few. Such practices are informed by, and continue to shape and inform, ideas of race — just as their racialization informs, and is informed by, how more-than-human species and environments come to be understood. In this panel we open up this entanglement of racialization and biology, focusing on how it comes to matter in the making of specific “natures,” including naturalized ways of perceiving bodies, and the spatial ordering of conservation environments.

Within political ecology, racialized natures have been explored in the making of National Parks (Byrne & Wolch 2009), the establishment of specific regimes of citizenship (Vandergeest 2003) and in terms of the identification and containment of populations as “out of place” or “risky” (Ybarra 2012). Decolonial approaches have mobilised “political ontology” as a way to open up and question the ways that particular ways of knowing natures, or “what exists” within such contexts to question and to change (eg. Blaser, 2013; De la Cadena 2010). Meanwhile, in complementary areas of cultural geography and anthropology, the ontological making of ab/normal bodies (Guthman 2012), of race and reproduction (Mansfield & Guthman 2015), and of interspecies relationships (Kirksey & Helmreich 2010) have been thought in relation to the racialisation of bodies at the microbiological level. In this panel we build on such rich scholarship, but focus specifically on practices of borders and bordering that are made possible through precocious entanglements of biology and discourse-practices of racialization. Our premise is that borders — which encompass not only administrative or political boundaries, but all “edges” that define an inside and outside — define the margins against which human-made natures collide in attempts to maintain an imagined form of security against invasion / contagion (Ahuja 2016). The (re)creation of this boundedness, knowable and maintainable, but  always under imminent attack, serves as the site of technical management in efforts to mitigate intrusion.

However, while these frameworks seek to confer notions of agential infectiousness, leading to the abandonment of people and places by state and supra-state apparatuses, local contestations are marked by a refusal of essentialization and externalisation. In their stead, counter-narratives and everyday practices push back–offering alternative modes for imagining and creating worlds otherwise. In this session, we seek to engage with scholars, activists, and artists whose work attends to both the narratives and processes of abandonment, and modes of contestation and flourishing beyond abjection and/or abandonment in order to think through how the entanglements of racialization and biology inform pervasive modes of meaning-making.

To that end, we invite paper abstracts and creative treatments that attend to (but are not limited to) questions, such as:

  • How do the ways microbial life are thought and talked about affect how racialised and colonial patternings (re)materialise?
  • How do discourses of race affect microbial relations are thought and enacted?
  • How is race articulated within concepts of invasive species, contagion, virality?
  • What modes of contestation /  thriving / flourishing emerge beyond dominant discourses about contagion or invasion (to include those that may or may not be recognizable to those outside)?
  • In what ways does the making of biological metaphors come to bear on practices and policies of border and migration (both human and more-than human) management?
  • How do racialisation and microbiology entwine in the making of imagined enemies  / outsiders / threats?

Presenters will also be encouraged to read a few selections in advance of the session as part of a shared pedagogical praxis and engagement.


Ahuja, Neel, (2016). Bioinsecurities: disease interventions, empire, and the government of species. Durham: Duke University Press.

Blaser, M. (2013). Notes towards a political ontology of ‘environmental’ conflicts. Contested ecologies: Dialogues in the South on nature and knowledge, 13-27.

Byrne, J., & Wolch, J. (2009). Nature, race, and parks: past research and future directions for geographic research. Progress in Human Geography33(6), 743-765.

De la Cadena, M. (2010). Indigenous cosmopolitics in the Andes: Conceptual reflections beyond “politics”. Cultural anthropology25(2), 334-370.

Guthman, J. (2012). Opening up the black box of the body in geographical obesity research: Toward a critical political ecology of fat. Annals of the Association of American Geographers102(5), 951-957.

Kirksey, S. E., & Helmreich, S. (2010). The emergence of multispecies ethnography. Cultural anthropology25(4), 545-576.

Mansfield, B., & Guthman, J. (2015). Epigenetic life: biological plasticity, abnormality, and new configurations of race and reproduction. cultural geographies22(1), 3-20.

Vandergeest, P. (2003). Racialization and citizenship in Thai forest politics. Society &Natural Resources16(1), 19-37.

Wald, Pricsilla (2008). Contagious: cultures, carriers, and the outbreak narrative. Durham, NC: Duke Uiversity Press.

Ybarra, M. (2012). Taming the jungle, saving the Maya Forest: Sedimented counterinsurgency practices in contemporary Guatemalan conservation. Journal of Peasant Studies39(2), 479-502.