Geopolitical Ecologies I: (Re)assessing state-nature relationships

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Political Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Development Geographies Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Bonaparte, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Organizers: Sara Hughes, Clare Beer
Chairs: Sara Hughes


Geopolitical Ecologies: Nature, States, and Governance

Organizers: Clare Beer (UCLA) & Sara Hughes (Mount Holyoke College)

Three sessions are running under this theme:
Geopolitical Ecologies I: (Re)assessing state-nature relationships (discussant: Leila Harris)
Geopolitical Ecologies II: Geostrategy and statecraft (discussant: Patrick Bigger)
Geopolitical Ecologies III: 'Green' hegemonies (discussant: Alex Loftus)

Sponsored by the Political Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology (CAPE) Specialty Group, Development Geographies Specialty Group, & Middle East and North Africa Specialty Group.

Nature plays a seminal role in the production of political space, yet political geographers have been slow to theorize the non-human world in relation to core disciplinary concepts like borders, power, sovereignty, the state, and territory/territoriality (Ramutsindela, 2017; Robbins, 2008). As a wider consequence, they have overlooked important connections between nature and political society. Political ecologists, meanwhile, mine these connections through a ‘chains of explanation’ methodology linking ecological change to uneven relations of social, economic, and political power. Despite their emphasis on politics, political ecologists have been less explicit about the state itself and why it matters to the non-human world (Robertson, 2015).

This session premises that political geographers excel where political ecologists fall short and vice versa (Robbins, 2003), leaving obvious room for each to draw important insights from the other. We argue that their cross-pollination is not only possible but would produce novel insights into processes of modern statecraft and global environmental change. For political geographers, deeper engagement with nature would expand the kinds of spaces that pertain to the geopolitical register and address how the sovereign state system could better manage global-scale environmental crises. For political ecologists, an encounter with state and/or political-geographic theory would sharpen explanations of environmental problems and render more nuanced pictures of the environmental state. This session builds on recent conversations between and within these subfields (Dalby, 2013; Harris, 2012; Parenti, 2015), and emerging research on the ‘political geography of the environment’ (Benjaminsen et al., 2017) and ‘political ecologies of the state’ (Harris, 2017), to open new space for collaboration.

We mobilize Bigger and Neimark’s (2017) ‘geopolitical ecology’ framework to drive our discussion, but encourage a wider reading of ‘geopolitics’ beyond the military-industrial. In particular, we seek to address the relationship between, on the one hand, environmental governance, sustainability, and climate change policy, and, on the other, geostrategy and statecraft. We are interested in how and why states manage their territorial environments to strategic effect, and the ways in which the material realities of nature complicate or subvert such actions.

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Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Leslie Acton*, Colorado State University, Lisa M Campbell , Duke University, Noella J Gray, University of Guelph, Jesse Cleary, Duke University, Patrick Halpin, Duke University, What is the Sargasso Sea? The problem of fixed space in a fluid ocean 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Clare Beer*, UCLA, Metabolism and the state: Toward a theory of environmental statecraft 20 8:20 AM
Presenter Shannon O'Lear*, University of Kansas, Corey Johnson*, University of North Carolina - Greensboro, Environmental Geopolitics in the Anthropocene: Emerging Research Directions 20 8:40 AM
Presenter Chris Sneddon*, Dartmouth College, Francis Magilligan, Dartmouth College, Rethinking the Environmental State: Ecological Restoration and the Limits of State Power 20 9:00 AM
Discussant Leila Harris University of British Columbia 20 9:20 AM

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