Conference theme

Political Ecology: North, South, and Beyond

The contested notions of the Global North and South, comparative political ecology, and the production of political ecological knowledge are proposed central themes for the 4th Biennial POLLEN conference. This is the first time the conference will be held outside of Europe, and we aim to use the occasion to think with and through the geographies of political ecology research, as well as to revisit the perennial focus of the network on political ecological change in diverse contexts. The conference offers an opportunity to not only expand the POLLEN network and (re)visit political ecology’s own problematics, but to engage with and challenge received wisdoms and persistent dichotomies and categories (spatial, social, ecological, political, economic, etc.) more generally, aiming to critically engage, and where necessary disrupt, our continued reliance on them.

‘First world’ and ‘third world’ political ecologies garnered initial exploration in the early 2000s (McCarthy 2002, 2005; Castree 2007; Robbins 2002; Shillington 2011; and Bryant 2015), in part following Said’s insights that imaginative geographies are produced by discourses, historical geographical practices, and disciplinary institutions. These engagements in political ecology opened up questions about the relationships between spatiality and regions, and the ways we frame and interpret environmental change and conflict, but also the ways we deploy contested concepts of nature, the `here’, home, and ‘the other’ (Wainwright, 2005). One contention is that the terms Global South and Global North can be dialectically and productively employed to capture a ‘deterritorialised geography’ of spaces and peoples negatively impacted by contemporary capitalist globalisation, and solidarities against it, regardless of their geographical location (Mahler, 2017). However, the terms can be dichotomising and reifying, and, given the contemporary pace, scale, and unevenness of global economic and ecological crisis, there is a clear need to think through and beyond ‘north and south’.

As in past POLLEN conferences, we will structure the conference 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-colonial, post-structuralist, eco-Marxist, anarchist, feminist, indigenous, degrowth, queer, and racial and environmental justice scholarship. We also invite sessions engaging conference themes with recent debates in political ecology and beyond: pertaining to multi-species entanglements, biodiversity crisis, extinction, climate, racialisation, (de)coloniality, biopolitics, green governmentality, the production and neoliberalisation of nature, uneven and unequal geographical exchange, and the envisioning of alternative sustainabilities for pursuing human and non-human well-being. In particular the themes of de-coloniality and post-coloniality are fitting in the context of the recent ‘Fees Must Fall’ student-led movement for free, decolonised education which swept through South African tertiary institutions. We aim to foster discussion around solidarities within and across the world’s multiple Souths and between the human and non-human, as well as scholarship and conceptual engagement which interrogates and cuts across conceptualisation of the north-south, nature and society, natural and artificial, authentic and inauthentic, expert and indigenous knowledges, and bodies and ecologies, as well as other axes of race, ethnicity, sexuality, kinship, age, caste, and identity. As in previous meetings, POLLEN 2022 will combine the objectives of a traditional meeting with less structured, more participatory sessions, and a creative and artistic component.