Chapter 37: The best of many worlds: methodological pluralism in political ecology
Methodological pluralism, or the flexibility to criss-cross traditional disciplinary boundaries in choosing the appropriate methods for the nature of the research question, is a critical element of political ecology. While rarely highlighted, this characteristic is a powerful component of the field’s appeal, liberating researchers from the constraints of disciplinary-bound thinking. The methodological choices political ecologists make are briefly considered, framing such choices in terms of qualitative, quantitative and participatory methods. Various considerations—from philosophical to practical—that adhere to various methods are discussed. The value of methodological pluralism is shown though a brief a case study of the environmental history and contemporary environmental conflicts in a small city in the northeast USA—New Haven, Connecticut. This case study demonstrates how divergent types of data can be used to support each other, to enrich our understanding with new perspectives and to provide a more complete view of the problem. Weaving together empirical data collected from multiple methods allows political ecologists to embrace complexity and uncertainty in their analyses; it is the antithesis of scholarship that seeks to generalize through ecological laws or models of human behavior.
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