December 15, 2011

Defining Political Ecology

Political Ecology is an interdisciplinary collection of scholars and writers who investigate the politics of human-environment relationships.  Is political ecology a discipline?  A field of study?  A theory?  A framework for approaching problems?  Whatever it is, you will find a lot of geographers, sociologists, environmental scientists, and, yes, anthropologists who identify with the goals and perspectives of political ecology.  I think it's a pretty fascinating collection of ideas and interests.  But that's just me.

The Political Ecology Working Group at the University of Kentucky (of which I am a part) has a new series that explores key issues in political ecology through short online essays.  The first round asked the question: What is political ecology?  Here's a selection from the opening essay, written by Paul Robbins from the University of Arizona:
Political Ecology is a kind of text

Political Ecology represents neither a theory nor a method, but instead reflects a global community of practice, convened around a certain kind of text.
As a community of practice, political ecology has formed a general constituency: a global conversation revolving around a set of themes, which adopts a specific sort of critical attitude. It is drawn from a large group of people who write professionally (like university academics) as well as those in international agencies (e.g. FAO), NGOs (e.g. WWF), state bureaucracies (e.g. USEPA), and local organizations. Typically, its constituency operates in the borderlands between analysis and action and between social practice and environmental change. It is, however, a community that holds a deep skepticism precisely of the institutions within which it operates. Its members, prodded by a sense that something has gone profoundly wrong...

Read the rest of of this essay, and all the others, here.

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