Political Ecology in Ruinous Times

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Johnson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Organizers: Colin Sutherland, Devin Holterman
Chairs: Colin Sutherland


Political Ecology in Ruinous Times
Colin Sutherland, York University, Toronto Canada
Devin Holterman, York University, Toronto, Canada

Today’s environmentalists decry “new” states of ruin and crisis via such narratives as the so-called Anthropocene, an epoch which often casts a shadow over ongoing and diverse human-environment conflicts, such as: the ongoing politics of water, soil and air contamination, and various attempts to re-wild, fortify, secure, commodify, and store species and natures in the face of extinction. Such narratives are pervasive and have prompted suspect solutions that recenters a pure and pristine nature within environmental policy. Political ecologists have remained critical of such dichotomies between pristine and ruined natures, citing the role of ruination and crisis in processes of environmental dispossession (Peluso, 1992; Escobar; 1998; Neumann, 1998).

Rather than locating ruin in an apolitical collapse of biological systems, critical scholars have focused their gaze on the political-economic sites of ruination, whereby colonialism (Todd, 2014), changes in environmental governance in the face of capitalist expansion, and the financialization of natural processes (Büscher, B., et al., 2012; Corson, 2016; Dempsey, 2016) become the central entryway to critique and change. Some have gone so far as identifying different pathways out of ruin and, perhaps more realistically, ways for living in ruin (Collard, Dempsey & Sundberg, 2015). These same scholars have identified that these so-called times of ruin are intimately embedded in other systems that must be addressed such as colonialism (David & Todd, 2017) and capitalism (Tsing, 2015; Moore, 2017).

Do these forms of ruin, collapse, and crisis manifest differently today, or are they working at new scales? Are these truly new forms of ruin and crisis? Do technical and political solutions attend to the root cause of these issues or is the real crises the inability to identify these roots without exposing the contaminated soil in which these ideas have flourished?

In light of these questions this session invites theoretically informed, empirically rich case studies from scholars, activists, and researchers working in diverse contexts of environmental crises, ruin and collapse. Papers exploring these questions, and other similar topics, will be considered:
o What are the political intentions and impacts of working towards pure or ruinous natures? Who is narrating crisis/ruin?
o How is ruin and pristine nature being articulated in contemporary research?
o What tools do critics have, and need to craft, in order to address these new challenges?
o Is there hope in what can emerge from ruin?

We ask that interested participants submit an abstract of no more than 250 words including your name, affiliation, and e-mail address, to crsuther@yorku.ca and dholt@yorku.ca by October 24th. All accepted participants will have to register with the AAG by October 25th.

Bibliography and References:

Büscher, B., et al. (2012). "Towards a synthesized critique of neoliberal biodiversity conservation." Capitalism Nature Socialism 23(2): 4-30.
Collard, R. C., Dempsey, J. & Sundberg, J. (2015). A manifesto for abundant futures. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 105:2, 322-330.
Corson, C. A. (2016). Corridors of power: The politics of environmental aid to Madagascar. Yale University Press.
Corson, C. and K. I. MacDonald (2012). "Enclosing the global commons: the Convention on Biological Diversity and green grabbing." Journal of Peasant Studies 39(2): 263-283.
Dempsey, J. (2016). Enterprising nature: Economics, markets, and finance in global biodiversity politics. John Wiley & Sons.
Dempsey, J. & Chiu Suarez, D. (2016). Arrested development? The promises and paradoxes of “selling Nature to save it.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 106(3), 653-671.
Escobar, A. (1998). Whose knowledge, whose nature? Biodiversity, conservation, and the political ecology of social movements. Journal of political ecology, 5(1), 53-82.
Havlick, D. (2011). "Disarming nature: Converting military lands to wildlife refuges." The Geographical Review 101(2): 183-200.
Kirksey, S. E., Shapiro, N., & Brodine, M. (2013). Hope in blasted landscapes. Social Science Information, 52(2), 228-256.
Latour, B., Stengers, I., Tsing, A. & Bubandt, N. (2018) Anthropologists Are Talking – About Capitalism, Ecology, and Apocalypse, Ethnos, 83:3, 587-606, DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2018.1457703
Lorimer, J. (2015). Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation after nature. University of Minnesota Press.
Masco, J. (2004). Mutant Ecologies: Radioactive life in post–cold war New Mexico. Cultural Anthropology, 19(4), 517-550.
Moore, J. W. (2017). The Capitalocene, Part I: On the nature and origins of our ecological crisis. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 44(3), 594-630.
Myers, N. (2016) From edenic apocalypse to gardens against Eden: Plants and people in and after the Anthropocene.
Neumann, R. P. (1998). Imposing wilderness: struggles over livelihood and nature preservation in Africa(Vol. 4). University of California Press.
Peluso, N. L. (1992). Rich forests, poor people: Resource control and resistance in Java: Univ of California Press.
Todd Z (2014) Fish pluralities: Human-animal relations and sites of engagement in Paulatuuq, Arctic Canada. Etudes/Inuit/Studies,38(1-2), 217-238.
Tsing, A. L. (2015). The mushroom at the end of the world: On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins. Princeton University Press.
van Dooren, T. (2014). Mourning crows: Grief and extinction in a shared world. The handbook of human-animal studies, 275-289.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Devin Holterman*, York University, Elephants, Extraction, and the Changing Natures of Protected Areas in Tanzania 20 9:55 AM
Presenter Gabriella Velasco*, , Across the Street: An Institutional Analysis of Environmental Racism 20 10:15 AM
Presenter Billy Hall*, National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), Racialized Natures of Trees and Heat in Baltimore: A Political Ecology of Segregation 20 10:35 AM
Presenter Timothy Neale*, Deakin University, Remaking the ‘upside-down’: working with fire on Dja Dja Wurrung country in southeast Australia 20 10:55 AM
Presenter Chryl Corbin*, University of California - Berkeley, Jesse Williamson, UC Berkeley , Unthinking Dystopian Futures: Why the World Needs EJ Futurism 20 11:15 AM

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