POLLEN20 storytelling session proposal – Facing authoritarian designs: our emotions, trajectories and methodological reinventions among political ontologies

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

Session organizers

Marco Malagoli (Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brasil) and Lúcia Fernandes (Centro de Estudos Sociais,  Portugal). Please send abstracts of 250 words or less to marcomalagodi@id.uff.br and luciaof@gmail.com no later than November 21st.

Session description

At the present global context with a new wave of neoliberal violences anchored in democratic crisis, worldwide elites propose once again authoritarism as a consensual value and the solution for the presumed social order, giving support to (neo)colonial geopolitcal reinventions – and their “glocalized” systemical forces. With this background a greater reinvention effort of our research and militant agendas is asked, in order to let us be opened to other connections, subjectivities, knowledges, strategies, praxis, network actions and agencies… to go on in the fight for other social transformative models.

The sociabilities, knowledges, memories, innovations and confrontations promoted by the political ecology (PE) offer relevant pathways to rethink our praxis in the world. We desire that they are intertwined multi dimensionally (institutional spaces, temporalities), from renewed epistemological and ontological matrixes.

We invite our participants to put into context their narratives through one or more of the diverse PEs. Among them, we would like to generate discussions from latino-american PEs, urban PEs and feminist PEs, all understood as (radical) contributions that go to the roots of actual dilemmas, focusing the many ways of oppression still concentrated on the (geopolitical, symbolic, intersectional) “South”, such as dominant urbanities and their problematic imaginaries, the subjugation and erasing attempts of subversive/rebel/different othernesses. Such PE currents seem to point out consistent and defying praxiological concepts and strategies to strengthen the militancies, at the same time that they point out for a major empiric-methodological commitment (like in David Harvey and Erik Swyngedouw), a best acknowledgment of the sociocultural diversity of ontological designs (the pluriverses by Arturo Escobar), and the possibility that we can recognize a major complexity by considering the humans/non-humans/super-humans hybrid agencies (as the cyborgs by Donna Haraway).

How the renewed – mainly due to social activisims – notions of praxis, design and agency are contributing to the (re)connection, (re)invention and strengthening of our militancies? How every researcher (re)elaborates her/his praxiological categories and alterities (behind the curtains) in the middle of new threats and emergent solidarities? Until which point we can act and be “not so western”, “not so purely humans”, “not so white and male” in our theoretical-methodological proposals (both academic and political ones)? What other senses and forces we could put into play as to reach, this way, our empirical approaches on environmental conflicts, disasters, social cartographies, pollutions/epidemics, spoliations, imaginaries, socio-ecological militancies, class/gender/ethnic violences, de(re)territorializations, assassination of community leaders, coups d´etat, and dictatorships?

This way we call our participants to review the methodological situations and contexts of their research investigations and militancies, in order that we can reflect alltogether on the heuristic power and limitations of these and other approaches of the PEs, to project – and asking for – a new horizon of new design of transformative praxis. And for that, we suggest a not-fragmented review of our biographies, with their baggage of intuitions and emotions, discoveries, solidarities, utopias, precarities and anxieties (normally wasted by actual academy and politics).

CfP POLLEN 20: Political ecology of professional practice: plurality and possibilities in environmental governance

The Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN 20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organisers

Sam Staddon (University of Edinburgh, UK) and Floriane Clement (INRA, France). Paper titles and abstracts of 250 words should be sent to sam.staddon@ed.ac.uk and floriane.clement@inra.fr by 28 October 2019 by November 18.

Session description

Professional environment and development practice has been critiqued by political ecologists and development scholars for its techno-managerialism, its professionalisation, its colonial continuities with the past, its ‘rendering technical’ of complex realities, and ultimately for being apolitical (Nightingale 2005, Lund 2015, Kothari 2005, Li 2007). It is said to fail to engage meaningfully with environmental justice and social equity concerns, or with the politics of knowledge and authority of intervention. Digging into these professional practices however, some urge us to unpack the ‘social life’ of interventions (Mosse 2004) and environmental policies, and to question the role and agency of ‘intermediary actors’, including as ‘bricoleurs’ (Cleaver 2012, Funder & Marani 2015) or ‘street-level bureaucrats (Lipsky 2010). Others draw attention to the multiple knowledges of development practitioners (Hayman et al. 2016, Eyben et al. 2015) and the importance and potential of reflective practice (Eyben 2014, Fechter 2012, 2013) in shifting professional practice to more effectively challenge hegemonic and oppressive systems.

Whilst political ecology has rightly explored and exposed the heterogeneity of ‘communities’ in community-based environmental governance, pointing to the diverse interests and dynamic power relations inherent within them, it has not extended this same attention to the importance of intersectional identities and multiple knowledges of the professional community working in this field. This session aims to unpack the community of environment and development professionals, to explore the diversity, plurality and possibilities of these actors and their actions. Kontinen (2016, p.29) observes that “NGOs are not only structures but also practices, communities, and sites of negotiation” (p.29), whilst Bee & Basnett (2017, p.797) suggest that “The key, then, is to identify possible points of reversal or switches, whereby potential openings for struggle and contestation occur”. This session seeks to explore such ‘negotiation’ or ‘points of reversal or switches’ where ‘struggle and contestation’ may occur, and which may open up the possibility of shifting environment and development practice into something more ‘transformatory’. It points also to the need and difficulty for researchers to engage in both critical and relational ways with environment and development actors (Bartels and Wittmayer, 2018).

We are welcoming theoretical and empirical contributions on the topic, from the Global South and Global North. Possible questions include:

  • How do different theories and bodies of knowledge help us to draw a more nuanced account of how environment and development programmes and policies get re-interpreted and re-negotiated and to identify pathways towards transformatory practices?
  • Which methodological approaches offer potential for understanding professionals’ everyday negotiations and struggles?
  • In particular, how does participatory action research support identifying ‘points of reversal or switches’ to challenge hegemonic and oppressive systems and moving beyond identification towards action?
  • To what extent and how might everyday, undercover and individual forms of resistance and negotiation by professionals lead to significant and transformatory change on the ground?
  • How do such forms of resistance and negotiation get acknowledged, accepted and institutionalised – and what are the risks and trade-offs of such institutionalisation?
  • How do individual professionals create space for reflexive and transformative practices within technocratic structures? In turn how do structures impede or support critical and reflexive agency through professional discourses, culture and institutions?