Experimental and Speculative Political Ecology

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups: Digital Geographies Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Marriott Ballroom Salon 1, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Dan Santos, Dylan Harris
Chairs: Rod Neumann

Call for Submissions

One of political ecology's main strengths is its emphasis on critique, and, through critique, its ability to better understand nature-society relations. Recently, calls have been made from within the sub-discipline–and from the social sciences more broadly–to move beyond critique, engaging nature/society relations more experimentally (Braun, 2015a). Experimental approaches to nature/society relations invite new techniques and methods to study issues as they emerge (Whatmore, 2013), as opposed to having already happened. To this end, much has been written about the limits of human reasoning and understanding in the face of large-scale environmental crises like climate change (Braun, 2015b; Colebrook, 2014). Speculative approaches to nature/society relations engage directly in the politics of expanding imaginative, perspectival, and political capacity in the face of these changes (see Ogden et. al., 2013; Stengers, 2005, 2011; Collard et. al., 2015). To borrow words from Donna J. Haraway (2016), rather than simply 'staying with the trouble,' how can trends in political ecology help us anticipate and better mediate the trouble?

The aim of this panel is to bring all the strengths of political ecology, with its emphasis on historical power relations and critical stance towards human-nature relations, to bear on issues and events that are currently happening or that have not yet happened. From dystopian threats of climate changed coastlines used to further uneven development (Paprocki, 2018), to mapping projects speculating potential sites for renewable energy projects (McCarthy & Thatcher, 2017), to resistance efforts to block pipelines and their itinerant futures (Bosworth, forthcoming), to a more engaged understanding of the importance of nature/society relations at the (epi)genetic scale (Mansfield & Guthman, 2015), there is already much work that engages with the speculative. Similarly, there is much work that responds to the speculative through experimentation, from studying experimentation itself (Lorimer & Driessen, 2014) to thinking more experimentally with methodologies (Whatmore & Landström, 2011).

In this panel, we hope to begin tying some of these concurrent and multiple threads together into a conversation about the ongoing and potential roles of the speculative and the experimental within political ecological work. We are hoping to have a broad range of participants who can discuss theoretical innovations, methodological experimentation, and empirical conundrums that engage with the speculative and experimental in their research and writing.


Bosworth, K. (Forthcoming) "The people know best: Situating the counter-expertise of populist pipeline opposition movements" Annals of the American Association of Geographers.

Braun, B. (2015a) From Critique to Experiment? Rethinking Political Ecology for the Anthropocene. In: T. Perreault, G. Bridge, and J. McCarthy, eds., The Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology. New York, NY: Routledge.

Braun, B. (2015b) Futures: Imagining Socioecological Transformation – An Introduction. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 105: 2, pp. 239-243.

Colebrook, C. (2014) Death of the Post-Human: Essays on Extinction, Vol. 1. Ann Arbor, MI: Open Humanities Press.

Collard, R.C., J. Dempsey, and J. Sundberg. (2015) A manifesto of abundant futures. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 105: 2, pp. 322-330.

Haraway, D. (2016) Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Lorimer, J. and C. Driessen. (2014) Wild experiments at the Oostvaardersplassen: rethinking environmentalism in the Anthropocene. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 39: 2, 169-181.

Mansfield, B. and J. Guthman. (2015) Epigenetic life: biological plasticity, abnormality, and new configurations of race and reproduction. Cultural Geographies 22(1): 3-20.

McCarthy, J. and J. Thatcher. (2017) Visualizing new political ecologies: A critical data studies analysis of the World Bank's renewable energy resource mapping initiative. Geoforum. doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2017.03.025.

Ogden, L. A., B. Hall, and K. Tanita. (2013) Animals, Plants, People, and Things: A Review of Multispecies Ethnography. Environment and Society: Advances in Research. 4, 5-24.

Paprocki, K. (2018) All that is solid melts into the bay: anticipatory ruination and climate change adaptation. Antipode. ISSN 0066-4812 (In Press)

Stengers, I. (2005) The Cosmopolitical Proposal. In: Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel, eds., Making Things Public.Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. pp. 994-1003.

Stengers, I. (2011) Wondering About Materialism. In: L. Bryant, N. Srnicek, and G. Harman, eds., The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism. Melbourne, AU: Re.Press. pp. 368-380.

Whatmore, S. J. (2013) Earthly powers and affective environments: an ontological politics of flood risk. Theory, Culture and Society, 30: 7-8, 33-50.

Whatmore, S. J. and C. Landström (2011) Flood apprentices: an exercise in making things public. Economy and Society.40: 4, 582-610.


Brief introduction, and then six presentations from each of the panelists. Each panelist is expected to adhere to the 12-minute time limit. The remaining 30 minutes will be allocated for a panel discussion led by the discussant.


Type Details Minutes
Introduction Dylan Harris Clark University 5
Panelist Max Ritts University of Minnesota 12
Panelist KD Brown University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill 12
Panelist Kevin Surprise Mount Holyoke College 12
Panelist Dan Santos Clark University 12
Panelist Matthew John University of Kentucky 12
Panelist Yusif Idies Muenster University, Department of Geography 12

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