Political ecology has been traditionally applied in rural contexts such as Appalachia, and a glance at this year’s sessions shows that this continues to be the case.  In contrast, this panel follows a more recent trend in Anglo-American Geography to consider the political ecological dimensions of the urban (Zimmer, 2010).  In so doing, we interrogate the enduring binaries of society-nature and city-countryside (Wachsmuth, 2012) to show how urban political contestations continually reshape society’s interface with nature. The research showcases...

Dark as a Dungeon: Coal, Cops and Cages in Central Appalachia

Judah Schept

Eastern Kentucky University

Against reliable tropes that signify difference, distance and deficiency, Central Appalachia has been central to the making of the capitalist state. While Appalachian coal fueled industrialization and World Wars 1 and 2, by the early 21st century the coalfields had become home to 16 prisons, many of them built on top of old coalmines and mountaintop removal sites, with incarceration at times replacing coal as the central economic and affective mo...

This session explores the concepts of resistance and refusal as enacted among, with, between, and for people living in and interacting with Appalachia.  Social science studies of resistance have examined the manipulation of behavior among the marginalized and “weak” in response to authoritarian power (Scott 1985), situated resistance in the framework of social movements and social justice efforts (Alexandrakis 2016), and interrogated resistance as functionally deviant behavior designed to either maintain or disrupt the social order.  Correspond...

From the 1978 Appalachian Land Ownership Survey to the Foxfire volumes, collaborative ethnographic methods and research-based education have been hallmarks of Appalachian Studies and studies of Appalachia. Appalachian Studies is a theoretical wellspring for collaborative methodologies, where studies have re-grounded expertise in practicing, writing, and applying ethnography to the social, economic, and environmental issues confronted by community partners. Despite a concurrent history of prescriptive, distanced academic study that has mis-under...

The Appalachian region is home to some of the world’s most biodiverse temperate forests (Yahner, 2000) and stewards the freshwater resources of the eastern US. Anthropogenic disturbances have degraded countless acres of forests and impaired thousands of miles of streams (Bernhardt and Palmer, 2011), especially through activities such as coal mining. 

Surface mining for coal, including the particularly destructive technique known as mountaintop removal mining, clears forests and native soils and blasts through layers of rock to access the coal re...

Despite the proliferation of apocalyptic renderings of the near future (e.g. Wells 2019), in recent years scholars have begun to call for greater attention to the experiments that might flourish in the midst, or in spite, of the destructive forces propelling capital accumulation (Gibson-Graham 2015; Braun 2015). While processes of primitive accumulation, including enclosure of common lands, dispossession, and extraction, continue to animate capitalist expansion around the world, a long-term tendency among critical scholars to foreground moments...

November 25, 2019

"The first thing that must be understood about how Movement Scientists show up in political battlefields is that we are connectors, first-responders, and pioneers of innovative methods within the field of data science and design. We connect people to essential statistics, resources, writings, databases, impact statements, etc. We are on the frontlines of debate. Here, we are armed with the data points necessary to refute problematic ideology, support community voices, demonstrate root causes, and hold authority figures accountable." -Jessica Be...

The “ontological turn” in the social sciences (and beyond) complicates and challenges our understanding of the co-constitution of social natures. Rather than tracing the becoming of socionatural assemblages or actor-networks on a single ontological plane, we must instead consider the interfaces, overlaps and interactions between multiple, often unevenly positioned worlds and world-making projects. Recent work, particularly in anthropology (de la Cadena and Blaser 2018; Omura et al 2018) points to the possibilities and complexities of engaging o...

As an array of infectious diseases have re-emerged or been found outside of their place of origin, talk of global pandemics has appeared in the pages of newspapers and academic journals alike. Chronic health conditions have also become more prevalent, impacting increasing numbers of people across the globe. While natural scientists and health professionals recognize that changes to the environment–from global warming to sub- and ex-urbanization–impact human health, they tend to present such changes as apolitical and ahistorical phenomenon. Seek...


The role of philanthropy in diverse humanitarian contexts continues to rise alongside massive inequality in wealth. Corollary to neoliberal state disinvestment, corporate-backed philanthropic investments shape human experiences of risks, opportunities, and access to resources. Ananya Roy (2016) underscores philanthropy’s temporal dynamic: funders mobilize resources in response to crises, under the premise that their interventions will be brief, non-structural, and “solve” the problems at hand. Roy contrasts this to a “temporality of endless wa...

This session aims to investigate elite capture (Dutta, 2009) as it relates to state policies and international agricultural development. The papers on this panel examine who benefits from government policies promoting agricultural production among rural populations in the global South and address the concern that such policies often favor wealthy and socially advantaged elites. A particular focus will be paid to how agricultural development slated as “pro-poor” often becomes co-opted by privileged groups of actors, doing little to address the r...

In this session, we will analyze different scales of power dynamics, ranging from grassroots organizations, to regional, national and global levels.  We will also examine different sectors, including environmental, social, and economic areas. Furthermore, we will discuss how change can be affected through various scales of influence, including community initiatives.  We are seeking papers that address these topics. The organizers’ papers will cover access to forest resources, economics of conservation biology, and youth education and empowermen...

How do we make other worlds possible? This session seeks diverse presentations that critically engage with the concept of potential in political ecology to approach this question. In recent years, scholars asking political ecological questions have turned to art, creativity and experimentation, particularly in response to the crises of the ‘Anthropocene’ (Braun 2015a; 2015b; Hawkins et al 2015; Tsing et. al. 2017). Experimentation, art and creativity find possibility where other forms of critique might find rote answers to old questions. Schola...

In Janelle Monae’s 2010 hit Many Moons, a surreal, futuristic android auction descends into a litany of personal and social ills. Tumbling from the mouth of Monae’s android alter ego Cindi Mayweather, “Plastic sweat, metal skin / Metallic tears, mannequin” grounds this lyrical moment in an embodiment of organic and inorganic life that disrupts and is itself subject to disruption. Plastic sweat is a visceral reminder of the manifestations of labor for beings whose humanity is subject to negotiation and denial, compelling the broader questions: W...

Critical pedagogies are rooted in an ethic of liberatory praxis and often seek to guide students through their own awareness and capacity to make change to unequal system of power. In the context of environmental education, this can mean that educators and their students explore the systematic and deeply institutionalized ways that environmental degradation operates across a myriad of contexts. In the year 2020, this topic carries with it particular urgency as we experience the deepening of the global climate crisis, the expansion of environmen...

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