Conference themes

Contested natures

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.

© 2019 Amber Huff

Power, possibility, prefiguration

As 2020 is the fifth anniversary of the POLLEN network, the conference to be a time for taking stock and looking forward.

It is a time for welcoming provocation and critique; questioning established notions of who is ‘the expert’ and associated epistemological hierarchies; exploring classic questions around power and the politics of nature through novel concepts, lenses, imaginaries, (re)enchantments and embodied and decolonizing practices; and for finding inspiration in emerging debates, new alliances and forms of practice and political action that are only beginning to engage with political ecology research and practice at the current juncture.

How do we make sense of evolving society-nature relationships?

How are natures being (re)made through and against crisis? How are ideas, technologies, bodies and values entangled and transformed in the process? What novel political ecologies are – or might be – emerging just on the horizon?

“BANKSY” by monsta’s ink is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Conference sub-themes and engagements

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.

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 worldviews 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? 

Cross-cutting questions

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?
“Untitled image”by wykah is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Aims of the conference

The conference will be structured to encourage critical reflection around the entanglements and encounters of political ecology with a variety of approaches and philosophies from post-structuralism and Marxist to anarchist, feminist and queer perspectives – the ways of knowing, seeing, representing, challenging that often define our work.

To these ends, despite moving online, POLLEN20 will seek to continue to combine the objectives of a traditional meeting with the collegiality and dynamism of a less structured, more participatory gathering. Using a variety of conventional and novel formats, we aspire to bring together perspectives and ways of sharing from across disciplines and geographic traditions, welcoming dialog with our allies within and outside the academy.

We are committed to diverse and equitable participation, so we aim to keep registration costs low and make the conference as accessible as possible.