Chapter 4: Encountering political ecology: epistemology and emancipation
This chapter considers the development of political ecology with an eye to how this research field has been shaped by Latin American experiences and scholarship. It is about how social movements in this region and Latin American environmental thinking have helped to constitute a wider perspective and approach to this emergent discipline and field of social action. Other regions and scholarly traditions have certainly also played their part in this growing international intellectual phenomenon. Yet it is arguably the case that Latin America deserves pride of place in this regard. I first briefly discuss some of the pioneers in this literature to show the deep roots of political ecology thinking in the region. Then the chapter explores how Latin American scholarship has shaped the epistemological bases of the wider research field, illustrating this argument with the examples of dependency theorists, de-colonial thinking and environmental rationality as core references of Latin American environmental thinking. Next I consider how that scholarship has also framed the emancipatory potential of political ecology, via examples relating to ontology of diversity, politics of difference, ecological redistribution conflict, cultural re-appropriation of nature, dialogue of knowledges and processes of territorial-based resistance (and re-existence). The conclusion briefly considers the future of Latin American political ecology and its wider influence.
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