Chapter 43: Towards a lusophone political ecology: assessing ‘para inglês ver’ environments
This chapter explores the prospects for a lusophone political ecology. Even if scholars in Portugal, Brazil and lusophone African countries are rooted in divergent academic practices and socio-economic contexts, we argue that they share an elastic affinity through language and culture. One expression that is deeply embedded in the lusophone sensibilities is ‘para inglês ver’, which literally means ‘for the Englishman to see’ and, figuratively, that something ‘is merely for show’. As a feature of a subaltern mind-set resulting from centuries of subordination to England of both Portugal and its former colonies – reflecting a creative way of dealing with external impositions without really submitting to them – it is now used in a much broader sense regarding showing off in general. Based on lusophone experiences on the ‘periphery’, we argue that para inglês ver represents an internationally distinctive way in which to conceive environment–society relations along two analytical lines: as a metaphor of external influences (with the concern about the environment being a paradigmatic example of that); and in the sense of action that is undertaken for the sake of appearances, involving instrumentalization of the ‘environment’. Lusophone researchers have investigated para inglês ver environments, with similar approaches to writers from elsewhere in the world who subscribe to a political ecology perspective – albeit with their own distinctive intellectual articulations. This chapter thus provides examples from Portugal, showcasing society–environment relations in the context of European Union integration; from Brazil, a resource-rich country with a history of unequal and destructive resource exploitation; and from the African countries of Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, with critical insights from there about environmental narratives. This early ‘cartography’ of a lusophone political ecology will not only assist in the further elaboration of lusophone-specific research themes, but will also, it is hoped, contribute to wider conceptual and empirical understanding in global political ecology.
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