Table of Contents

The International Handbook of Political Ecology

The International Handbook of Political Ecology

Edited by Raymond L. Bryant

The International Handbook features chapters by leading scholars from around the world in a unique collection exploring the multi-disciplinary field of political ecology. This landmark volume canvasses key developments, topics, issues, debates and concepts showcasing how political ecologists today address pressing social and environmental concerns. Introductory chapters provide an overview of political ecology and the Handbook. Remaining chapters examine five broad themes: issues and approaches; governance and power; knowledge and discourse; method and scale; connections and transformations. Across diverse topics and perspectives, these chapters amount to a wide-ranging survey of current research, making the International Handbook an indispensable reference for scholars and students in political ecology.

Chapter 21: Disaster, degradation, dystopia

C. Anne Claus, Sarah Osterhoudt, Lauren Baker, Luisa Cortesi, Chris Hebdon and Amy Zhang

Subjects: environment, environmental politics and policy, environmental sociology, geography, human geography, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy


In this chapter we examine the contributions that the field of political ecology––with its focus on the mutually constitutive relationships between environments, cultures, politics and power––has made, and can continue to make, to a more nuanced understanding of disasters. Disaster research also contributes to political ecology insofar as it illuminates the complexity of relationships between environments and societies over space and time. Drawing from ethnographic examples and historical analysis, we situate epistemologies of disasters within broader analyses of scale-making, nature–culture dichotomies, the classification of disasters as ‘natural’ or ‘social’, the interpretive dimensions of identity and the construction of self. The very definition of a situation as ‘disastrous’ or not varies with one’s political resources. Overall, we argue that political ecology frameworks pose new questions about the operation of power and politics in contexts of disasters, resulting in enriched understandings of the social experience of disasters. Ethnographic examples, such as those presented in this chapter, illustrate the rich promise of continued work at the confluence of the fields of political ecology and disaster studies.

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