‘Global Production Networks and the Problem of Nature: Revisiting the Economic Geography of Natural Resources’

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Economic Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Beatriz Bustos, Felipe Irarrázaval
Chairs: Felipe Irarrázaval

Call for Submissions

we are looking for abstracts from all regions and commodities.


This session revisits how the obstacles, opportunities and surprises that firms face to transform nature into commodities are critical to understanding the economic geography of natural resources. Specifically, we encourage researchers using a GPN/GVC frame to show how those obstacles, opportunities and surprises urge a critical revision of the core ideas of such frames. However, the session is open to other approaches in economic geography (broadly understood) or heterodox economics which share this spirit. Both theoretical and empirical contributions are welcome.

In the last two decades, there has been a change in how economic/resources geographers understand the transformation of nature into commodities (Bakker, 2012). This change is based on the comprehension of natural resources as a socio-political construction, and consequently, that natural resources production is a socio-ecological process (Baglioni & Campling, 2017). The socio-ecological process of nature transformation highlights that firms cannot never control production because they rely on overcoming the obstacles, opportunities and surprises that the non-human elements imposes – i.e. the problem of nature (Boyd, Prudham, & Schurman, 2001). While biological production – e.g. agriculture, aquaculture or livestock – heavily depends on controlling issues like pests and diseases, extractive industries are shaped by access dynamics to sources of better quality and quantity of resources. Both types of industries share, in different ways, the challenge of overcoming the problem of nature in organising production and accomplishing their objectives of accumulation.

Global Production Networks (GPN) analysis has seen an animated expansion of the conceptual tools for analysing this issue. For example: how the materiality and territoriality of oil are central for the global organization of the industry (Bridge, 2008; Bridge & Le Billon, 2012), how resources scarcity and environmental regulation reconfigure production networks (Gibson and Warren, 2016), how inter-firm relations are shaped by environmental standards that meld environmental conditions of production and network dynamics (Havice & Campling, 2017), or how the ecological contradictions which emerge from the production stage modify the production network (Irarrazaval and Bustos-Gallardo forthcoming). Against this background, this session looks to deepen the comprehension and debate of economic geographers on natural resources. We especially invite contributors that study critically production networks and value chains in or connected to natural resources. Questions could include, but are not limited to:

- What kind of obstacles and surprises does nature impose on firms in the organization of production networks?

- How do firms organise the territorial configurations of production to seek to overcome the challenges of transforming nature into commodities?

- What roles do states and international institutions play in shaping nature’s transformation into commodities?

- What is the role of processes of innovation and technological change in the attempt to control natural resource production?

- How does the problem of nature impact on processes of value creation, enhancement and capture?

- How are inter-firm power relations related to the problem of nature?

Please submit your abstract (250 words) to Felipe Irarrazaval (felipe.irarrazaval@manchester.ac.uk) and Beatriz Bustos-Gallardo (bibustos@uchilefau.cl) by Wednesday 17th October.


Baglioni, E., & Campling, L. (2017). Natural resource industries as global value chains: Frontiers, fetishism, labour and the state. Environment and Planning A, 0308518X17728517.

Bakker, K. (2012). The “Matter of Nature” in Economic Geography. In T. J. Barnes, J. Peck, & E. Sheppard (Eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Economic Geography (pp. 104–117). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

Boyd, W., Prudham, W. S., & Schurman, R. A. (2001). Industrial Dynamics and the Problem of Nature. Society & Natural Resources, 14(7), 555–570

Bridge, G. (2008). Global production networks and the extractive sector: governing resource-based development. Journal of Economic Geography, 8(3), 389–419

Bridge, G., & Le Billon, P. (2012). Oil (1 edition). Cambridge, UK ; Malden, MA: Polity Press.

Havice, E., & Campling, L. (2017). Where Chain Governance and Environmental Governance Meet: Interfirm Strategies in the Canned Tuna Global Value Chain​. Economic Geography, 93(3),

Irarrazaval, F. & Bustos Gallardo, B. (forthcoming) Global Salmon Production Networks: Unpacking Ecological Contradictions at the Production Stage Economic Geography


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Ker-Hsuan Chien*, , Bigger turbine, lesser impact? Acoustics, environmental impact assessment, and the global offshore wind network in Taiwan 20 12:40 PM
Presenter Felipe Irarrázaval*, University of Manchester, Coupling Through Nature: Resource-Making in Natural Gas Production Networks in Peru and Bolivia 20 1:00 PM
Presenter Jana Kleibert*, Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, Martin Hess*, University of Manchester, Contesting Global Production Networks of Fur: Spaces of Commodification, Valuation and Dissociation 20 1:20 PM
Presenter Matthew Fahrenbruch*, University of Kansas, A Political Ecology of the Jellyfish Fishery in Nicaragua 20 1:40 PM
Discussant Liam Campling Queen Mary University of London 20 2:00 PM

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