Reimagining Political Ecology

Reimagining Political Ecology

New Ecologies for the Twenty-First Century

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Book Pages: 440 Illustrations: 2 color illus., 5 tables, 6 color maps, 16 figures Published: November 2006

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Geography

Reimagining Political Ecology is a state-of-the-art collection of ethnographies grounded in political ecology. When political ecology first emerged as a distinct field in the early 1970s, it was rooted in the neo-Marxism of world system theory. This collection showcases second-generation political ecology, which retains the Marxist interest in capitalism as a global structure but which is also heavily influenced by poststructuralism, feminism, practice theory, and cultural studies. As these essays illustrate, contemporary political ecology moves beyond binary thinking, focusing instead on the interchanges between nature and culture, the symbolic and the material, and the local and the global.

Aletta Biersack’s introduction takes stock of where political ecology has been, assesses the field’s strengths, and sets forth a bold research agenda for the future. Two essays offer wide-ranging critiques of modernist ecology, with its artificial dichotomy between nature and culture, faith in the scientific management of nature, and related tendency to dismiss local knowledge. The remaining eight essays are case studies of particular constructions and appropriations of nature and the complex politics that come into play regionally, nationally, and internationally when nature is brought within the human sphere. Written by some of the leading thinkers in environmental anthropology, these rich ethnographies are based in locales around the world: in Belize, Papua New Guinea, the Gulf of California, Iceland, Finland, the Peruvian Amazon, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Collectively, they demonstrate that political ecology speaks to concerns shared by geographers, sociologists, political scientists, historians, and anthropologists alike. And they model the kind of work that this volume identifies as the future of political ecology: place-based “ethnographies of nature” keenly attuned to the conjunctural effects of globalization.

Contributors. Eeva Berglund, Aletta Biersack, J. Peter Brosius, Michael R. Dove, James B. Greenberg, Søren Hvalkof, J. Stephen Lansing, Gísli Pálsson, Joel Robbins, Vernon L. Scarborough, John W. Schoenfelder, Richard Wilk


“[T]he book sheds some thematic and methodological insight on recent anthropological concerns.” — Marlene Buchy, Development and Change

“[T]he volume has real strengths, including a nuanced examination of globalization.” — Thomas E. Sheridan, American Ethnologist

“Biersack and Greenberg offer an interesting collection of ecological anthropology essays that collectively provide the reader an introduction to the ‘the new ecological anthropology’. . . . As an introduction to changing theoretical perspectives in the subfield of ecological anthropology, the book could stand as a solid contribution, and possibly a ‘must include’ textbook for graduate courses on ecological anthropology.” — Christopher A. Thoms, Society & Natural Resources

“The volume is, without doubt, an interesting addition to the political ecology literature. Its importance lies not just in its clear restatement of the evolution of the field, but also in its analysis of developments in relation to the work of Roy Rappaport and ecological theory. This approach is particularly informative and serves to illustrate the contribution of anthropology to the evolution of political ecology. This volume will be a welcome addition to the book shelves of all those interested in this field of inquiry and in understanding and addressing the challenges of human-nature relations.” — Wynet Smith, Environmental Conservation

Reimagining Political Ecology is an important contribution to efforts to build a more nuanced poststructural political ecology and a pertinent reminder that political ecology has benefited enormously from the work of anthropologists.” — Raymond Bryant, author of The Political Ecology of Forestry in Burma, 1824–1994

“Political ecologists have helped configure the fields of environmental governance and environmental justice. This thoughtful, insight-filled collection helps readers rethink some of the main concerns of political ecology. Organized in complementary counterpoint, the essays use evidence from around the world to make fundamental contributions toward a reconsideration of nature/culture relationships. Scholars from both disciplinary and interdisciplinary formations will discover the need to consult and use this volume.” — Arun Agrawal, author of Environmentality: Technologies of Government and the Making of Subjects


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Aletta Biersack is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oregon. She is the editor of Papuan Borderlands: Huli, Duna, and Ipili Perspectives on the Papua New Guinea Highlands and Clio in Oceania: Toward a Historical Anthropology.

James B. Greenberg is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona and Professor at the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology. He is the author of Blood Ties: Life and Violence in Rural Mexico and Santiago’s Sword: Chatino Peasant Religion and Economics.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction / Reimagining Political Ecology Culture/Power/History/Nature / Aletta Biersack 3

Beyond Modernist Ecologies

Equilibrium Theory and Interdisciplinary Borrowing: A Comparison of Old and New Ecological Anthropologies / Michael R. Dove 43

Nature and Society in the Age of Postmodernity / Gisli Palsson 70

Constructing and Appropriating Nature

Ecopolitics through Ethnography: The Cultures of Finland’s Forest-Nature / Eeva Berglund 97

The Political Ecology of Fisheries in the Upper Gulf of California / James B. Greenberg 121

“But the Young Men Don’t Want to Farm Any More”: Political Ecology and Consumer Culture in Belize / Richard Wilk 149

Properties of Nature, Properties of Culture: Ownership, Recognition, and the Politics of Nature in a Papua New Guinea Society / Joel Robbins 171

Ethnographies of Nature

Progress of the Victims: Political Ecology in the Peruvian Amazon / Soren Hvalkof 195

Red River, Green War: The Politics of Place Along the Porgera River / Aletta Biersack 233

Between Politics and Poetics: Narratives of Dispossession in Sarawak, East Malaysia / J. Peter Brosius 281

Between Nature and Culture

Rappaport’s Rose: Structure, Agency, and Historical Contingency in Ecological Anthropology / J. Stephen Lansing, John Schoenfelder, and Vernon Scarborough 325

Works Cited 359

Contributors 407

Index 409
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3672-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3685-3
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