The Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020
Submission deadline: All proposals must be submitted via online form by Friday, 22 November 2019*.
The contested notion of ‘nature’ is one of the central themes in political ecology, and the third biennial conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN), Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration, aims to explore plural natures and plural futures as sites of struggle and possibility whilst critically engaging with and ‘unpacking’ multiple and overlapping crises of our times.
As 2020 is the fifth anniversary of the POLLEN network, the organizers aim for the conference to be a time for taking stock and looking forward; for welcoming provocation and critique; questioning established notions of who is ‘the expert’ and associated epistemological hierarchies; exploring classic questions through novel concepts, lenses, imaginaries, (re)enchantments and embodied and decolonizing practices; and for finding inspiration in emerging debates and new alliances.
The conference will be structured to encourage critical reflection around the entanglements and encounters of political ecology with a variety of theories, approaches and philosophies, including but not limited to post-structuralist and Marxist to anarchist, feminist and queer perspectives within political ecology. As in previous meetings, POLLEN 2020 will combine the objectives of a traditional meeting with the collegiality and dynamism of a less structured, more participatory gathering.
To these ends, this call encourages proposals for themed sessions in a variety of both conventional and novel formats, aspiring to bring together perspectives and ways of sharing from across disciplines and geographic traditions, and welcoming contributions from within and outside the academy.
We particularly encourage transdisciplinary engagements and collaborations in political ecology (i.e. involving, for example, researchers in social sciences, natural / environmental sciences, humanities and development studies; artists; journalists; practitioners; policy professionals; laypersons; activists; environmental justice campaigners and others).
Across specific themes, we aim to foster reflection on cross-cutting questions and issues that seem particularly pertinent at the current juncture.
What is the nature of ‘crisis’ ? How and by whom are natures being (re)made through and against the language, politics and materiality of crisis at different scales?
What tools do we have at hand and what tools are needed to make sense of evolving society-nature relationships in different contexts?
How is the coloniality of knowledge, technology, being and power at play in contestations and struggles over nature and possible futures? How are diverse values and ways of being entangled in these struggles?
When we speak of ‘alternatives’, what distinguishes alternatives in versus alternatives to dominant regimes of truth, power and accumulation, in theory and practice?
What does ‘de-centring’ and ‘disorienting’ Anglo-Euro-American political ecology mean in practice?
Considering coloniality, racism and hetero-patriarchy as constitutive elements of modernity, what does the call to decolonize political ecology require? What can be learned from ‘walking with’ and exploring, in solidarity, emplaced and embodied modes of resistance, insurgent imagination, experimentation and prefiguration, about ways knowing and ‘doing’ transformation?
What political ecologies and future natures are emerging, or might be just on the horizon ? What practices of knowledge, creation, doing and sharing could nurture the futures we want?
Key themes in political ecology
At this time, we invite proposals for organized sessions that address one or more of the following overlapping themes or other key issues in political ecology:
Political ecologies of agrarian and environmental change, exploring tensions and convergences across political ecology and critical agrarian studies, ways in which the politics of nature and resource control have become increasingly entangled, or that explore situated drivers and dynamics of agrarian change through ‘lenses’ of political ecology such as green governmentality, green violence, questions about the interplay of knowledge, power, representation and technologies of governance at the nexus of nature, political economy, society and landscape.
Production of capitalist natures, examining the construction and consequences of industrial, green, extractive and financial capitalisms through and of natures on different scales; How is large-scale enclosure and extraction legitimized despite and in light of ‘green’ discourse and critique? How do practices that extend market-based and financialized valuation and exchange logics into new spaces, areas and varieties of life transform socio-natures and displace, reproduce and even deepen environmental, economic and social crises? How are the languages, logics and practices of policing, militarization, security and surveillance changing conservation and development landscapes? How are market-based and ‘rooted’ value systems enacted, contested, negotiated or resisted in practice?
Feminist, queer and trans political ecologies, opening up plural perspectives on gender, nature and justice; How can postcolonial intersectionality, rooted in black and majority-world feminisms, help political ecology to confront contradictions – beyond but in dialogue with those specific to gender relations – that coalesce along axes of social difference including race, ethnicity, kinship, age, caste, indigenous self-identity and nature? How can embodied world-views and practices unsettle dominant hierarchical, white supremacist, hetero- and homo-patriarchal and/or binary notions of the human and non-human, nature and society, North and South, natural and artificial, authentic and inauthentic, bodies and ecologies?
Radical ecologies and future natures, exploring how critical engagement of political ecology with environmental humanities, arts, and social and environmental movements can help us understand crises and evolving society-nature-technology relationships; How might concepts from visual arts and literature such as the ‘surreal’, the ‘dystopian’, the ‘weird’, the ‘eerie’ and the ‘strange’ resonate with efforts to make sense of uncertainties and ‘hidden’ dimensions of contemporary and emerging political ecologies and politics of nature? How can speculative genres, aesthetic movements and afro- and other futurisms alongside radical, queer and trans perspectives shape work to prefigure new politics, solidarities, more-than-human conviviality, new commons and ways of being-in-nature?
Session proposals can be submitted via online form at this link prior to the proposal submission deadline of
31 October 2019 22 November 2019.
Session formats and participation
We invite proposals for themed sessions in a variety of both conventional and novel formats, aspiring to bring together perspectives and ways of sharing from across disciplines and geographic traditions in political ecology. We welcome proposals contributions from within and outside the academy.
Proposals are invited for four primary types of organized sessions:
Regular sessions, lasting 90 minutes (1.5 hours),
Workshops and skill-shares, lasting up to 3 hours,
Multimedia sessions (e.g. film screenings, photo or art exhibitions with accompanying presentations and / or discussion) of up to 3 hours, and
Displays, exhibitions or installations that will be in place for part or all of the conference but do not involve presentations or discussions.
REGULAR SESSIONS are 90 minutes long and will be assigned to classrooms, meeting rooms and outdoor spaces (weather permitting) that are part of the conference venues in central Brighton.
‘Regular’ here refers to the 90-minute time slot, not to session format. Sessions can use, but are not limited to, one of the formats discussed below. Feel free to be creative! Want to organize a piece that uses role-play, show-and-tell, theatre, music, games or puppets? Feel free!
In order to assign sessions to the most appropriate spaces, remember that organizers should include details on technical requirements of the session (i.e. Will PowerPoint be used? Will films be shown?) and the number of participants involved.
Examples of possible regular session formats
Paper sessions – 90 minutes
A paper session includes a series of individual pre-prepared presentations on a focused topic or theme followed by discussion / Q&A. If a discussant will be part of the session, individual papers should be provided to them ahead of time.
In total, 90 minutes are allowed for each paper session. This should allow for up to 4 individual presentations, depending on the length of the introduction, whether or not a discussant will speak and time desired for questions.
For paper sessions that do not use the full 90 minutes, additional presentations may be added after the submission deadline to complete the time.
Panel sessions / Panel debates – 90 minutes
A panel session is meant to explore a big issue or question (contentious in the case of debate) selected by the organizer in-depth, guided by a small group of speakers selected based on different opinions or different areas of experience / expertise. The session includes an introduction by the session organizer providing background on the topic / debate. Informal presentations or responses by pre-selected speakers are followed by a block of time for moderated Q & A or responses from attendees.
Panelists do not have to make highly structured, pre-prepared presentations and will not use PowerPoint slides. Rather, they can present a concise initial reflection, intervention or response to the central issue or question.
In total, 90 minutes are allowed for each panel session. This should allow for a brief introduction, 3-5 individual panelists, and should leave at least 30 – 45 minutes for moderated discussion and open debate.
Lightning talks / Pecha Kucha sessions – 90 minutes
These are good formats for exploring the ‘state of the field’ in terms of current research on a particular topic, for presenting project ideas, or for generating a set of critiques or provocations around an idea or a theme. Organizers may consider organizing a session around a specific conceptual or empirical question, topic or problem or might aim for a more practical session (e.g. Pitch your thesis idea; How should POLLEN grow?).
Lightning talks and Pecha Kucha are similar formats that challenge participants to deliver presentations within a very limited time frame. This means that sessions should be tightly managed in terms of time, so having co-organizers or dedicated ‘chairs’ is a good idea to ensure that everything goes smoothly on the day of the presentation.
For Lightning Talks, sessions of 90 minutes involve a set number of presentations of limited length (usually between one and 10 minutes). Slides may or may not be allowed, and are sometimes discouraged to allow rapid changes between speakers. Speakers may be identified ahead of time, or may be more ‘spontaneous’, involving presenters who volunteer from the audience (the latter is a bit riskier, as it depends on people showing up and having something to say!).
Pecha Kucha sessions are similar, but more structured. A 90-minute session will involve a pre-set number of presenters, each using 20 slides, which are each shown for 20 seconds on a timer or is advanced automatically. Thus, each presenter has just 6 minutes and 40 seconds to explain their ideas before the next takes the stage. This session requires that all slides be collected in advance by the organizer(s) and compiled into one long slideshow.
Storytelling sessions – 90 minutes
Broadly, a storytelling session invites participants to tell personal stories on a particular topic or in response to a particular question selected by the organizer(s). This type of session is useful for exploring in-depth types of experience or also ‘grey areas’ – dilemmas, uncertainties, value conflicts, ethical problems, etc. that participants have encountered in the context of their research, writing or political activities.
Participants should be free to use visual aids of their choice.
In total, 90 minutes are allowed for storytelling sessions. This should allow for a brief introduction, up to 4-5 storytellers, and should leave at least 30 minutes for open discussion and group reflection between and / or following presentations.
Workshops and skill-shares
WORKSHOPS AND SKILL SHARING SESSIONS of up to 3 hours in length are invited from organizers wanting to explore ideas or practices in-depth, generate individual or group outputs, build capacity within POLLEN or transfer particular skills.
De-mystifying theory, exploring forms of political action, modifying pedagogical practices, sharing professional, practical or technical skills, sharing research techniques, original teaching activities, communication methods, organizing mini-MasterClasses, collaborative learning exercises or building practical initiatives within POLLEN are all good reasons to consider organizing a workshop session.
Proposals for workshop sessions should include the title of the workshop and three key words, and should include a description that is clear and detailed in regard to aims and objectives, technical requirements, structure and methods, how time will be divided, maximum number of participants, how participants will be recruited or limited and, if applicable, any expected outcomes or outputs that will be produced.
MULTIMEDIA SESSIONS of up to 3 hours are invited for film screenings, performances, photo or art exhibitions that include accompanying presentations and /or discussion. Proposals for multimedia sessions should include the title of the session, a session abstract, and should be clear and detailed in regard to activities, participants, technical and spatial requirements, how time will be divided. If session organizers wish to include visual or other materials in proposals, they may include a link to online materials in the proposal submission.
Displays, exhibitions and installations
DISPLAYS, EXHIBITIONS AND INSTALLATIONS will be in place for part or all of the conference but do not involve presentations or live discussion. This is a good type of session for sharing visual art, sculpture or photography on a theme or event or from a particular project that conference delegates can explore on their own time. Proposals for these sessions should include the title of the session, a session abstract, and should be clear and detailed in regard to spatial requirements and composition. If session organizers wish to include visual or other materials in proposals, they may include a link to online materials in the proposal submission.
Preparation and submission guidance
In advance: If you would like to organize a session, it is a good idea to begin early to circulate calls, recruit participants and think through session content, structure and roles. Session organizers are responsible for compiling required information for the submission, reviewing submissions that they receive, recruiting any named presenters and assigning any necessary roles (e.g. chair, discussant, etc.).
Circulating calls: Before submitting a proposal, many organizers prefer to circulate calls for papers or participants. Session organizers are responsible for recruiting participants to sessions they propose as applicable. If desired, the conference committee and POLLEN secretariat can assist with posting calls to the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN) web site and conference web site.
If you would like to post a call for papers or presenters on these web sites, send your call as an email attachment in .DOC format with proposed session title, session details / abstract and instructions for submitting potential contributions to session organizers to POLLEN@sussex.ac.uk with ‘CfP POLLEN 20’ in the subject line. Make sure to include the name and contact details of the session organizer(s)!
Session allowances: For regular 90-minute sessions, proposals for single sessions are encouraged, and double sessions (i.e. two consecutive or non-consecutive 90-minute sessions on the same theme or topic) will be permitted only as time / space allows and with written justification explaining why an extended session is required. To ensure that everyone has equitable space for participation and avoid ‘crowding out’ effects, proposals for triple, quadruple, and longer sessions will not be accepted.
Roles in sessions (edited for clarity on 28/09/2019): For regular 90-minute sessions of any type, conference delegates may participate in multiple sessions but may not duplicate primary roles. Primary roles include (1) Session organizer, (2) presenter / participant / panelist and (3) discussant.
What this means is that, while a delegate may have roles in multiple 90 minute sessions, they will not be able to serve any of these roles more than once. In other words, one individual may not organize multiple sessions (a proposed ‘double session’ is considered as one session), present in multiple sessions or serve as discussant in multiple sessions.
This is to ensure that everyone has equitable space for participation and to avoid ‘crowding out’ effects. A delegate may chair (keep time and assist in preparations and logistics) for any number of regular sessions that they desire. In addition to roles in regular 90-minute sessions, any delegate may also freely take on roles and participate in other session types (i.e. workshops, multimedia sessions and installations).
Session proposal submission procedures: After calls have been circulated and participants identified, the final step is to submit complete session proposals. This should be done via online form at this link (https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/POLLEN2020) by
31 October 2019 22 November 2019. Session proposals will not be accepted by email unless explicitly agreed to by prior arrangement with the conference organizers. During the submission process, session organizers will be asked to provide the following information:
- The name and contact details of the primary (corresponding) session organizer and any co-organizers
- The type of session being proposed
- The proposed session title
- Three session keywords (these will be used to assign reviewers and time slots)
- A session abstract or description (500 words maximum)
- Individual participant information (name, affiliation if applicable, email address and role) if applicable
- Individual presentation / paper titles if applicable
- For paper sessions, abstracts for individual presenters should be included (maximum 250 words each)
- Indication of how the full time allotted will be used
Participation in organized sessions is highly encouraged, but we anticipate that a second call for individual proposal submissions of some kind will be issued following the session proposal deadline. Available space will depend on the number of session proposals received and overall venue capacity.