Political Ecologies of Scale in the Anthropocene-Postgenomic Shift

How does refiguring bodies, life, and even earth itself in ecological terms both seemingly dissolve and reinvoke scale? Today, the increasing interest in the macro concept of the Anthropocene (both in terms of planet and epoch) is coupled with a proliferation of interest in the micro: such as molecularization of life (Braun 2007, Rose 2006), mineralization of life (Yusoff 2013), chemicalization of life (Romero et al 2017), and the microbiomization of life (Hird 2009, Lorimer 2017, Paxson & Helmreich 2014). Moreover, scholars place this proliferation of interest in the macro and the micro as part and parcel of the same shift in thinking, arguing that  “this new model of the body is the molecular and biological version of the global and geological “Anthropocene”” (Mansfield 2017).


Geography debates on globalization in the 90’s and early 2000’s spurred a rich literature not only on the political economy of scale but also on the limits of a relational ontology of scale and the epistemic limits of scalar methods (such as Brenner 2001, Jessop 2002, Mansfield 2005, Marston et al 2005, Massey 1993). These debates notably point to the ways the politics of scale is fundamentally linked to conceptualizations of space. Some scholars have developed political ecologies of scale by bringing these geographies of scale to the way complex socio-ecological dynamics are forged through relations between both human and nonhuman actors (Natter & Zierhofer 2002, Neumann 2009 2015, Rangan & Kull 2009). However, as a broadening ecological turn continues to refigure the inside/outside spatialization of human and natural, body and world, it begs further inquiry into what this spatialization means for scale.


In what ways does the socionatural figuring of body and planet create a new imperative for scale? How is the macro-micro distinction rendered obsolete on the one hand? And made generalizable to all life on the other hand? How does the body become a way to talk about the macro (e.g. earth as a living organism) or the micro (e.g. microorganisms) at the same time the body itself becomes the ecological relation between the macro (i.e. whole) and micro (i.e. parts)? This session seeks contributions that interrogate the scalar dimensions of ecological imaginaries of life, including scale as an emergent property, scale as a part-whole relation, cross-scalar or multiscalar dynamics, microcosmos, macrocosmos, etc. Critically, the invitation is not to demonstrate that ecological life is scalar but rather “through what processes and for what reasons are different scales produced and given significance at any particular time and/or place?” (Mansfield 2005).

If interested, please email abstracts (300 words), title, and keywords to Ariel Rawson (rawson.29@buckeyemail.osu.edu) by December 7th 2018.




Braun B (2007) Biopolitics and the molecularization of life. Cultural Geographies 14(1): 6–28. DOI: 10.1177/1474474007072817.


Brenner N (2001) The limits to scale? Methodological reflections on scalar structuration. Progress in Human Geography 25(4): 591–614.


Hird M (2009) The Origins of Sociable Life: Evolution after Science Studies. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


Jessop B (2002) The Political Economy of Scale. In: Perkmann M (ed.) Globalization, Regionalization and Cross-Border Regions. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 25–49.


Lorimer J (2017) Probiotic Environmentalities: Rewilding with Wolves and Worms. Theory, Culture, & Society 34(4): 27–48. DOI: 10.1177/0263276417695866.


Mansfield B (2005) Beyond Rescaling: reintegrating the ‘national’ as a dimension of scalar relations. Progress in Human Geography 29(4): 458–473.


Mansfield B (2018) A new biopolitics of environmental health: Permeable bodies and the Anthropocene. In: Marsden T (ed.) Sage Handbook of Nature. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.


Marston S, Jones III JP and Woodward K (2005) Human Geography without scale. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 30(4): 416–432.


Massey D (1993) Power-geometry and a progressive sense of place. In: Bird J (ed.) Mapping the Futures: Local Cultures, Global Change. New York: Routledge, pp. 59–69.


Natter W and Zierhofer W (2002) Political ecology, territoriality and scale. GeoJournal 58: 225–231.


Neumann R (2009) Political ecology: theorizing scale. Progress in Human Geography 33(3): 398–406.


Neumann R (2015) Political ecology of scale. In: The International Handbook of Political Ecology. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 475–486.


Paxson H and Helmreich S (2014) The perils and promises of microbial abundance: Novel natures and model ecosystems, from artisanal cheese to alien seas. Social Studies of Science 44(2): 165–193.


Rangan H and Kull C (2009) What makes ecology ‘political’?: rethinking ‘scale’ in political ecology. Progress in Human Geography 33(1): 28–45.


Romero A, Guthman J, Galt R, et al. (2017) Chemical Geographies. GeoHumanities 3(1): 158–177.


Rose N (2006) The Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.


Yusoff K (2013) Geologic life: prehistory, climate, futures in the Anthropocene. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 31(5): 779–795.


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