Chapter 39: Globalizing French écologie politique: a political necessity
Political ecology has undergone academic institutionalization in English-speaking countries, unlike French écologie politique, which grew out of a culture of critique and of partisan mobilization. These differences are coming sharply into focus today, as discussions between epistemic communities intensify. This chapter examines the interplay of these geographical interventions and the trajectories of various political ecologies. It argues that, while the very existence of a debate on the globalization of political ecologies is evidence of the obsolescence of these nationally centred intellectual traditions, the network-building processes currently under way are suffused with unjustifiable hierarchies and irrepressible diversity. Such processes of globalization as experienced by the French écologie politique are cluttered by three difficulties. Some of the more vocal defenders of a French environmental ‘heritage’ approach are keen to rehabilitate a pride in national ideas rather than to provide rigorous and in-depth investigations of environmental issues. Others have become professional knowledge brokers, drawing on their ability to read and write English, establish trans-linguistic networks, and integrate their international expertise into French academia. Others are already busy internalizing the provincialization of French research. In the face of these difficulties, political ecology and écologie politique must each think about themselves in the same manner that they think about their subject matter: politically. This involves accepting the need to engage with the question of globalization, but also taking into account the ‘asperities’ that constitute the world. Entering such a world requires repositioning situatedness at the heart of the research process. It also points to the importance of language, both as a political tool creating commonality and as an ecological tool conveying what is woven between humans and geographical environments. Without this combination of thinking, French écologie politique (like other forms of political ecology) runs the risk of remaining shackled by divisions and hierarchies that it can neither apprehend nor control.
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