The International Handbook unites many of the world’s leading scholars of political ecology, while also introducing new and less heard voices from that community. This chapter describes the topics and themes covered. The handbook is divided into six parts: an introductory overview; issues and approaches; governance and power; knowledge and discourse; method and scale; and connections and transformations. Part I suggests that this collection of chapters underscores the international character of political ecology both in terms of topics addressed and membership in this scholarly community, the interdisciplinary and multi-scalar dimensions, as well as its flexible and expansive understanding of what constitutes the field itself. Part II builds on this discussion by assessing some of the broad key approaches and issues that have animated the research field of political ecology. Given the international orientation and ethos of this book, that assessment is notably concerned with how the field has come to be defined over the years in relation to sometimes quite distinctive academic cultures shaped by different intellectual and language contexts. Part III focuses on how governance and power inform political ecology dynamics. That focus has been a key thematic referent over the years as different generations of scholars, hailing from different disciplines and often academic cultures, with different geographical and topical foci, as well as different theoretical influences and concerns, have nonetheless shared an abiding interest in how human–environmental relations are governed, often quite unequally in relation to power. Part IV examines the role of knowledge and discourse in the articulation of political ecology relations. Often associated with the post-structural turn in the research field, notably since the 1990s, attention to the world of ideas, narratives, stories and discourses opened up a new thematic array of topics attracting in turn a fresh wave of adherents. Theoretically linked insights followed as scholars found new ways in which to critically understand trends and battles in environment and development around the world. Part V helps us to understand political ecology from a different angle, in that it explores how issues of method and scale inform praxis in the research field. In general, the elaboration of political ecology as an interdisciplinary and international enterprise has meant that the flexibility encountered in the articulation of research approaches, themes and topics discussed above is mirrored in the array of understandings and uses made of both method and scale in the pursuit of specific research projects. Part VI lastly considers some of the connections and transformations that are shaping or are likely to shape how political ecology develops in the years ahead. Standing back from the proliferation of specific topics that seem set to colonize just about every element of the human–environment relationship imaginable, what are some of the broader areas for growth, as well as issues to be confronted in terms of a political ecology understood both as an international community of scholars and as a set of flexibly linked research agendas?
Raymond L. Bryant
Raymond L. Bryant
This chapter reflects on the development of political ecology in light of the preparation of this International Handbook as well as more than two decades’ involvement in the research field. While noting that no international history of it has yet been written, I suggest that this task is being pursued in an incremental manner by scholars around the world today, and illustrate this point with reference to chapters in this handbook that, on the one hand, survey various academic cultures of political ecology and, on the other hand, probe key theoretical issues and debates that both divide and unite scholars in the field. There is also a growing number of textbooks involved in political ecology making. All these efforts speak to an endless conversation in the research field that I thereafter explore in two ways. First, I consider the changing nature of the political ecology community, the ‘gaining of voice’, as the field has expanded over space while becoming a more ‘representative’ group of scholars as notably women and ethnic minorities increasingly come to the fore, even as it has sought to reach across disciplines as well as to scholars who devote more or less of their time to political ecology research. Second, I consider the changing nature of research in that community, the ‘giving of voice’, as a wider array of research concerns animate the field: a larger mix of research topics, framed by a growing assortment of theories and concepts, explored via a mixture of methods, usually focused via a concern to link research as well as teaching and engagement to the promotion of greater social and ecological justice in the world. This involves much struggle both within and without academia but is part-and-parcel of the life of the political ecologist today.
Edited by Raymond L. Bryant
Raymond L. Bryant, Ángel Paniagua and Thanasis Kizos
This chapter assesses how far and in what ways the demographic question has been addressed in political ecology, arguing that it played a crucial part in the field’s early development. And yet, apparently tainted by association with neo-Malthusian thinking, the relationship between demographic patterns and human–environmental interaction was never thereafter systematically pursued, as political ecologists focused instead on issues of class, power, the coercive state and globalizing capitalist relations. In contrast, we argue for a return to the demographic question through analysis of the seemingly paradoxical case of depopulated areas. That analysis draws on the concept of shadow landscape, which brings together processes of marginality, scale, socio-nature and cultures of depopulation to explain human–environmental dynamics in those areas marked by the relative absence of people. Two brief examples from Spain and Greece then follow before the conclusion takes stock of how a political ecology of depopulated areas might be further elaborated.