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Political Ecology Across Spaces, Scales, and Social Groups

Political Ecology Across Spaces, Scales, and Social Groups

Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Political Ecology Across Spaces, Scales, and Social Groups
    Book Description:

    Environmental issues have become increasingly prominent in local struggles, national debates, and international policies. In response, scholars are paying more attention to conventional politics and to more broadly defined relations of power and difference in the interactions between human groups and their biophysical environments. Such issues are at the heart of the relatively new interdisciplinary field of political ecology, forged at the intersection of political economy and cultural ecology. This volume provides a toolkit of vital concepts and a set of research models and analytic frameworks for researchers at all levels. The two opening chapters trace rich traditions of thought and practice that inform current approaches to political ecology. They point to the entangled relationship between humans, politics, economies, and environments at the dawn of the twenty-first century and address challenges that scholars face in navigating the blurring boundaries among relevant fields of enquiry. The twelve case studies that follow demonstrate ways that culture and politics serve to mediate human-environmental relationships in specific ecological and geographical contexts. Taken together, they describe uses of and conflicts over resources including land, water, soil, trees, biodiversity, money, knowledge, and information; they exemplify wide-ranging ecological settings including deserts, coasts, rainforests, high mountains, and modern cities; and they explore sites located around the world, from Canada to Tonga and cyberspace.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4254-6
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Place, Power, Difference: Multiscale Research at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century
    (pp. 1-16)

    Innovations and debates within political ecology, as well as critiques of the approach as a whole, have motivated serious reflection about the methods, concepts, and studies that make up this relatively new field. As environmental issues become increasingly prominent in local struggles, national debates, and international policies, scholars are paying more attention to conventional politics and to more broadly defined relations of power and difference in interactions among human groups and their biophysical environments. This move has generated questions about the role of politics in environmental scholarship and practice as well as concerns that ardent attention to political phenomena may...

  5. 2 Politics, Ecologies, Genealogies
    (pp. 17-38)

    During the past two decades, the field of political ecology has advanced through research, analysis, and applied practice across disciplines that include anthropology, biology, geography, philosophy of science, and political science. Scholars working with political ecology approaches have challenged dominant interpretations of the causes of environmental degradation and contested prevalent prescriptions for responding to such problems. The intellectual and political origins of the termpolitical ecologydate to the 1970s, when a variety of rather different commentators, including anthropologist Eric Wolf, journalist Alexander Cockburn, and environmental scientist Grahame Beakhurst, coined it as a way of conceptualizing the relations between political...

  6. PART ONE Policy and Environment

    • 3 The Fight for the West: A Political Ecology of Land-Use Conflicts in Arizona
      (pp. 41-60)

      In the global economy, the commodification of nature and the territorialization practices of nation-states pose formidable challenges to sustainable uses of natural resources. Certain environmental problems such as growth management and residential sprawl have proved to be intractable issues in our existing political processes. This case study of grazing and growth conflicts in Arizona demonstrates that intractable environmental problems may actually be emergent properties of complex systems, requiring new political approaches that foster collaboration and knowledge sharing between disputing stakeholders. One such multi-stake-holder collaboration in Arizona revealed that attempts to remove grazing from Arizona landscapes could actually be detrimental to...

    • 4 Whose Water? Political Ecology of Water Reform in Zimbabwe
      (pp. 61-75)

      At the September 2002 World Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, water was the center of contestation and debate. It was variously characterized as a scarce resource, an economic good, a human right, a matter of national and international security, and an environmental right. In this chapter, we examine the process of water reform underway in Zimbabwe. The complex interplay of environmental, economic, social, and rights-based discourses and practices related to this essential natural resource provides a point from which to consider current debates surrounding how the political is conceptualized in political ecology. We draw on Alberto...

    • 5 The New Calculus of Bedouin Pastoralism in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
      (pp. 76-93)

      From a promontory in the deserts of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it would not be uncommon to spot two, three, or more herds of sheep roaming in the gentle valleys below. Hardscrabble land, dusty plains, or the smooth lines of sand dunes—all are accustomed to use, and those who use them are undeterred by the seeming lack of vegetation. From that same promontory, one might spot a Bedouin camp on the horizon, perhaps fifteen or twenty miles distant, signaled by a collection of two or three tents, a handful of pickup trucks, and a larger water truck that...

    • 6 Land Tenure and Biodiversity: An Exploration in the Political Ecology of Murang’a District, Kenya
      (pp. 94-112)

      Since the 1992 signing of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, biodiversity has become a salient component of international discourse and, as such, a key means through which power relations at the global level are redrawn (Escobar 1996). The struggle over intellectual property rights and plant breeders’ patents is one dimension of this discourse and the focus of substantial research (Mooney 1996). In the contest to establish whose knowledge counts and the effort to promote the conservation of biodiversity globally, those people who depend on the maintenance of biodiversity for their livelihoods are increasingly recognized as central players. Yet...

    • 7 The Political Ecology of Consumption: Beyond Greed and Guilt
      (pp. 113-132)

      Students, scientists, and activists are increasingly concerned about how modern consumption affects the environment.¹ There are good reasons for this concern. Mathis Wackernagel and William E. Rees’s (1996) ecological footprint method shows how consumption of final goods (like food), services (like travel), and supplies (like electricity) directly and indirectly use and degrade a significant portion of the earth’s resources. Appropriately, concern about consumption is growing among the prosperous people of the world—in both overdeveloped and underdeveloped societies—as they anxiously contemplate their use of energy and materials. Such worries are well expressed in the title and content of Alan...

  7. PART TWO Social Hierarchies in Local-Global Relationships

    • 8 Finding the Global in the Local: Environmental Struggles in Northern Madagascar
      (pp. 135-153)

      Political and economic control is a process, never complete and always shifting. Whether in the context of ideologies or the daily practices of power and enforcement, domination is constantly threatened by the varied and multiform resistance of those whose consent it relies upon as well as by changes in the political and economic frameworks in which power operates. Early theorists of globalization supposed that technological advances in the domains of transportation and communication would contribute to cultural homogenization and unilateral domination from centers of technological invention, dissemination, and control (see Friedman 2000, Jameson 1992). Anthropologists have pointed out, however, that...

    • 9 Symbolic Action and Soil Fertility: Political Ecology and the Transformation of Space and Place in Tonga
      (pp. 154-173)

      Anthropologists studying human-environment relations confront two related challenges: first, how to tease out the multitude of ecological, social, cultural, political, and historical influences through and in which knowledgeable actors live; second, how to convey to one’s peers and students the illustrative qualities of ethnographic events that help us to understand the interplay of these diverse influences. Clifford Geertz (1973), of course, is widely recognized for just such an eloquent portrayal of ethnographic events in his thick description of the Balinese cockfight. William Roseberry’s (1989) commentary on Geertz’s work has provided a political-economic contextualization of the publicly displayed meaning of the...

    • 10 Gendered Practices and Landscapes in the Andes: The Shape of Asymmetrical Exchanges
      (pp. 174-195)

      The Andean region is characterized by extraordinary geographic and ecological diversity and a great complexity of cultural practices and patterns. Across the Andes, rural families manage dissimilar and often distant geographic and ecological spaces; numerous species and varieties of plants and animals; multiple economic systems and relations; and a wide gamut of knowledge, techniques, and organizational strategies. Relations among these elements have been orchestrated through politics of resource allocation and management in which social differentiation and interdependence—expressed in gender, generational, ethnic, and spatial terms—are key factors. Andean forms of social organization (notably, ethnic-based polities calledayllus) have been...

    • 11 Undermining Modernity: Protecting Landscapes and Meanings among the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia
      (pp. 196-214)

      This chapter focuses on the involvement of Mi’kmaq Indians in preventing a mountain on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, from being turned into a granite quarry.¹ The struggle illustrates how the cultural, existential, and political dimensions of environmental engagement are enmeshed. I identify a fundamental polarity between local and nonlocal interests, incentives, and perspectives, in which the nonlocal tends to be represented by abstract discourse far removed from the experiential realities of local meanings and life worlds. As local meanings are threatened by development projects, social movements mobilized to protect them tend paradoxically to be drawn into the abstract, discursive...

  8. PART THREE Forest Visions

    • 12 Shade: Throwing Light on Politics and Ecology in Contemporary Pakistan
      (pp. 217-238)

      Until a generation ago, influenced by a much older nature-culture dichotomy in western thought, studies of environment and society were generally kept strictly apart, pursued by the natural and social sciences, respectively.¹ The rise of human ecological approaches in the 1960s and 1970s represented a radical critique of and break from this dichotomy in that they explicitly integrated human beings into ecological studies. Nevertheless, political dimensions were characteristically missing from these early human ecological studies: the relevance of power, inequality, and the state to resource use and degradation was not explored. Human ecologists had critically asked of previous ecological studies,...

    • 13 A Global Political Ecology of Bioprospecting
      (pp. 239-256)

      Political ecology merges concern for aspects in the natural environment (ecology) with a focus on relationships between people-environment and people-people (political). The burgeoning literature in political ecology deals with environment and development issues, emphasising the perception of problems among various stakeholders and others (Blaikie and Brookfield 1987, Bryant and Bailey 1997, Peet and Watts 1996, Stott and Sullivan 2000; also see chapter 2). Political ecology attempts to understand various types of influences across scales, sometimes also involving multiple spaces.

      Usually political ecology students start their projects by examining a situation at the local level and then spread gradually into an...

    • 14 The Emergence of Collective Ethnic Identities and Alternative Political Ecologies in the Colombian Pacific Rainforest
      (pp. 257-278)

      The emergence of collective ethnic identities in the Colombian Pacific and similar regions reflects the irruption of the biological as a global concern and the cultural or ethnic as a political issue. This situation is evidenced in the new Colombian constitution’s expressed desire to construct a pluri-ethnic and multicultural society. To what extent does the emergence of these unprecedented identities constitute a new context for biodiversity discussions? Is it possible to articulate an alternative view of biodiversity conservation grounded in the aims and needs of the movements? In this chapter, we explore three basic conceptual questions: what is biodiversity and...

    (pp. 279-282)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 283-290)