Ecological materiality: Community ecology applied to micro interaction in pragmatic sociology

Authors: Rebecca Van Stokkum*, University of California - Davis
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Environmental Science, Social Theory
Keywords: materiality, community ecology, pragmatic sociology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


At its inception ecology was considered a unifying discipline that might someday collapse the distinction between the natural and social sciences. Here, seminal literature from community ecology about invasive species and property rights are used to analyze discourse about the role of the natural sciences in society. These works speak to notions of nature and society and to the role of materiality in human management in a world with arguably nothing left untouched by human activity. I argue that socioecological literature analyzes these necessarily political processes using an over-socialized methodology and that an expanded scope of materiality could be added to pragmatic sociological research through application of ecological concepts such as the geographic mosaic of coevolution and ecological fitting. In the community ecology literature, researchers have developed an extensive conceptual framework for networked material relations and fashioned categories to fit scientific goals. But many ecologists considered these goals as necessarily separate from mundane material social judgements because of their normative nature. Notable techniques used by ecologists to protect natural systems from negative outcomes included fine tuning scientific categories related to scale of management (e.g. community, population, or species). In the process researchers tended to connect representational forms to material forms at abstract scales of generality. These behaviors demonstrate the ways ecology has been used at abstract and macro levels to characterize natural material systems and ignored in the social interactive process of justification of human oriented systems at micro and meso levels.

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