We are seeking participants and papers for a symposium and workshop that aims to:
1) Bring together researchers working on critically informed approaches to the role, distribution, development, and character of plants and other biogeographies that may be allied to the field of political ecology or to its further development in Australasia
2) Provide an opportunity for Australasian researchers with established or developing interests in political ecology or allied fields to participate in a workshop on explanation and methodology in political ecology with a leading researcher in the area – Paul Robbins, author of ‘Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction (Blackwell, 2004) and ‘Lawn People: How Grasses, Weeds and Chemicals Make us Who We Are (Temple UP, 2007). See http://geog.arizona.edu/people/robbins.php.
The program will likely consist of one and a half to two days of paper presentations at a symposium, followed by a workshop led by Paul Robbins on the final day. The final duration of the program will depend on the level of interest.
Political Ecology and ‘New Biogeography’s’
Political ecology is a diverse field that defies easy definition. In ‘Political Ecology’, Robbins identified four broad ‘theses’ that have come under its banner; degradation/marginalisation with a focus on environmental change; environmental conflict and access to resources; conservation and control; and environmental identity and social movements. Often, but by no means always, PE research is characterised by both social and biophysical research, often detailed case studies, that provide rich insights into the social, cultural, and political nature of natural resource use and management and its distributional and environmental outcomes. It is commonly associated with research in the third world but many first world researchers would recognise their interests in the above ‘theses’ and explicit calls for a ‘first world’ political ecology have been a feature of the field in recent years. In Australia at least, research that identifies itself as political ecology has been relatively uncommon, and where it has existed, it has largely had an overseas focus. This is changing in recent years (for example Kull and Rangan’s work on acacias), and without overstating the case for the development of an Australian political ecology as something entirely new, two of our objectives here are to explicitly explore the usefulness of the approaches and methodologies of the field for Australasian research and to bring together researchers from the region who identify with, or are interested in, the field. We are also interested to connect theoretical debates about more-than-human geographies to pressing environmental issues requiring solutions.
Much political ecology has concerned itself with environmental change and its entanglement with social, economic, discursive, and institutional processes. Plant, and to a lesser extent, animal biogeographies have been an important part of this. Land cover outcomes, whether of forest, grasslands, crops, invasive species, or of certain habitat types are both the result of social and natural formations and knowledge systems and in turn influence social worlds. Historical, ongoing, and developing influences such the movement of plants around the globe, the development of genetically modified organisms, land use and ownership changes, and the mixed outcomes of forcing a divide between humans and nature for conservation provide fertile ground for the tools of political ecology. They might be used to examine contemporary biogeographies, the conditions of their emergence, reproduction, change, or demise, and their social consequences. The ‘new’ biogeographies of genetic plant modification, of climate change, of hybrid landscapes, and of so-called ‘novel’ ecosystems blur lines between nature and society. They also do and will challenge current conservation thinking and practice, change food production, and will arise from and bring social change. Papers and the workshop will show how Australian researchers are using and could further use the approaches and tools of political ecology to investigate these issues and produce accounts that are theoretically grounded and contribute to just and well-argued social and environmental outcomes.
The paper presentations at the symposium will provide an opportunity for Australasian researchers to learn about the work of others in this area. The subsequent workshop with Paul Robbins will be a chance to further explore the methodological debates and issues in political ecology. We intend to seek publication of papers in an edited book or a special edition of a journal.
The Event and Your Response
There will be no charge for attending though participants will be responsible for travel, accommodation, and associated costs. We will provide information on accommodation options at a later date. The GeoQuEST Research Centre will provide morning and afternoon teas and lunches.
The workshop will be at the University of Wollongong on the 15th, 16th, and 17th of February 2010. If you would like to participate, please send us an expression of interest to Nicholas Gill at email@example.com by November 2st 2009. Include the following information:
- Whether you will attend the symposium
- Whether you will attend the workshop
- Whether you wish to present a paper at the symposium and, if so, an abstract. Depending on numbers we may not be able to accept all papers.
- Your contact details.
The symposium and workshop are supported by the University of Wollongong’s GeoQuEST Research Centre. Previously GeoQuEST has supported the 2005 ‘Applied Natures’ symposium (see Australian Geographer, 37:1, 2006) and a workshop and conference sessions with Professor Noel Castree (see ‘Culture, nature and landscape in the Australian region’ in Geoforum, 39:3, 2008).