Political Ecologists take on Resilience: Conflicts, Confluences, and Coming Trends

Political Ecologists take on Resilience: Conflicts, Confluences, and Coming Trends


Call for Papers: Dimensions of Political Ecology 2017 Conference

Organizer: Kevin Hillmer-Pegram, PhD (University of Alaska Fairbanks)


As the Earth changes and humans attempt to keep themselves and non-human nature existing, much is being written about the relationship between political ecology and social-ecological resilience – two approaches to nature-society research and action (e.g., Cote & Nightingale, 2012; Cretney, 2014; Ingalls & Stedman, 2016). But, what exactly is the state of the relationship between these two approaches today and where is it headed? On one hand, political ecologists have strongly criticized resilience for advancing neoliberal hegemony (MacKinnon & Derickson, 2013) and for producing abstracted understandings of human suffering, “coming too close, for many social scientists, to social Darwinism” (Turner, 2014, pp. 621). On the other hand however, critical scholars have also argued that resilience actually possesses a, “critical potential that points beyond its enrolment in neoliberal strategies of control…[and] can inform a radical ecological politics” (Nelson, 2014, pp. 1).


So which is it? Ought political ecologists to jettison resilience from our collective consciousness in favor of alternative approaches to nature-society research and action? Or, should political ecologists work with resilience and its adherents to unlock its emancipatory and transformative potential? Is there realistic hope for brining about “Resilience for Social Justice”, as Walsh-Dilley, Wolford, and McCarthy (2016) call it? What would this look like in practice? This session aims to advance a responsible, dialectical future between political ecology and resilience. In support of that goal, the session seeks papers in areas such as (but in no way limited to):


  • Innovative ideas for unlocking resilience’s critical potential

  • Arguments for relegating resilience to the scrap heap of inequity-reproducing paradigms

  • Investigations into the history of the relationship between the two approaches

  • Explorations of their theoretical underpinnings (e.g., power vs. the adaptive cycle)

  • Ethical examinations of the two approaches’ normative commitments  

  • Case study examples demonstrating the differences/similarities of the two approaches

  • Methodological and logistical issues related to integrating the two approaches

  • Lessons political ecologists should learn from resilience

  • Other topics that the session organizer has not yet considered    


If you are interested in presenting in this session, please submit by email a presentation title and abstract of no more than 300 words to the session organizer (Kevin Hillmer-Pegram; khillmerpegram@alaska.edu) by November 24th, 2016. Thank you.   



Cote, M., & Nightingale, A. J. (2012). Resilience thinking meets social theory: Situating social change in socio-ecological systems (SES) research. Progress in Human Geography, 36(4), 475-489

Cretney, R. (2014). Resilience for Whom? Emerging Critical Geographies of Socio-ecological Resilience. Geography Compass, 8(9), 627-640.

Ingalls, M. L., & Stedman, R. C. (2016). The power problematic: Exploring the uncertain terrains of political ecology and the resilience framework. Ecology and Society, 21(1)

MacKinnon, D., & Derickson, K. D. (2013). From resilience to resourcefulness: A critique of resilience policy and activism. Progress in Human Geography, 37(2), 253-270.  

Nelson, S. H. (2014). Resilience and the neoliberal counter-revolution: From ecologies of control to production of the common. Resilience, 2(1), 1-17.

Turner, M. D. (2014). Political ecology I: An alliance with resilience? Progress in Human Geography, 38(4), 616-623.    

Walsh-Dilley, M., Wolford, W., & McCarthy, J. (2016). Rights for resilience: Food sovereignty, power, and resilience in development practice. Ecology and Society, 21(1).



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