Nature, Economy, Space II: Furthering an 'Epistemic Project' for Environmental Economic Geography

Type: Virtual Panel
Sponsor Groups: Economic Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Energy and Environment Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM (PDT)
Room: Virtual 39
Organizers: Clare Beer, Tyler Harlan
Chairs: Clare Beer


The subfield of Environmental Economic Geography (EEG) emerged in the mid-2000s in response to growing calls for economic geographers to take nature and the environment more seriously. Early contributions to EEG applied economic geography’s core concepts (eg. location, network, scale), existing thematic strengths (eg. regional economic development, firm-level behavior, spatialities of production and innovation), and analytical tools (eg. regulation theory, evolutionary institutionalism, critical industrial ecology) to study economy-environment relations (Gibbs, 2006; Hayter, 2008; Kassinis 2001; Soyez & Schulz, 2008; Störmer, 2008; Weiss, 2008). Subsequent contributions pushed EEG to adopt socio-ecological or socio-natural understandings of the environment and its role in the economy, recognizing that there is no external nature upon which the economy unilaterally acts and rebuking economic geographers’ longstanding dismissal of the environment as ‘extra-economic’ (Aoyama et al, 2011; Patchell & Hayter, 2013). Nonetheless, Bridge (2008) warns that EEG risks amounting to little more than a ‘topical contrivance’ unless it develops and unites around a deeper ‘epistemic project’: one that uses economic geography’s encounter with the environment as an opportunity to question and possibly transform the assumptions and categories of economic geography proper.

Since the mid-2000s, geographic research on economy-environment relations has flourished. For example, work on neoliberal natures (Bakker, 2010; Castree, 2008), financialized natures (Sullivan, 2013; Ouma et al., 2018), nature and value (Kay & Kenney-Lazar, 2017; Moore, 2015; Walker, 2017), environmental ‘fixes’ (Castree & Christophers, 2015; Ekers & Prudham, 2017), and rent and the green economy (Andreucci et al., 2017; Knuth, 2018), reveals not only how capitalist dynamics articulate with environmental processes and change, but also how material environments shape and resist capitalist relations. These are important interventions addressing Bridge’s (2008) provocation, yet they emerge from a single paradigm of economy-environment relations – neo-Marxism – that for the most part is not in dialogue with EEG and vice-versa. Meanwhile, EEG remains a marginal subfield of economic geography.

Acknowledging this, our panel session revisits the idea of an ‘epistemic project’ for EEG. We seek to facilitate conversation among environmentally-focused economic geographers that critically assesses such a project, its capacity for bridging diverse paradigms, and how it might renovate spatial approaches to the economy. We ask: what does an EEG perspective offer to the study of economy-environment relations? How does this perspective enrich and challenge economic geography proper? What would a heterodox but coherent epistemic project for EEG look like, and how would it articulate with recent discussions among economic geographers about methods, engaged pluralism, and what belongs at the discipline’s core (Cockayne et al., 2018; Rosenman et al., 2019; Strauss, 2019; Yeung, 2019)? How must EEG expand its field of vision to include the vital domains of race and gender? Finally, what new and emerging concepts, themes, and analytical tools deserve EEG’s attention?


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Type Details Minutes Start Time
Panelist Julia Affolderbach Trier University 15 1:30 PM
Panelist Christian Berndt University of Zurich 15 1:45 PM
Panelist Michael Ekers University of Toronto 15 2:00 PM
Panelist Andrew Jonas University of Hull 15 2:15 PM
Panelist Sarah Knuth Department of Geography, Durham University 15 2:30 PM

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