Political ecology has among its origins an examination of ruins. For political ecologists, ruination has been less a process of natural factors and more closely aligned with ideas of accumulation by dispossession (Blaikie 1985; Peluso 1992; Neumann 1998; Watts 1983; Paprocki, 2019). Through this work, dichotomies of pristine and ruined nature have been questioned and critically evaluated to argue that these are not natural categories but are instead produced through specific processes of power by which international capitalist and colonialist intervention occur. These ideas have remained pervasive in political ecological scholarship, even if narratives of ruination are not made explicit.


Through important contributions by DeSilvey and Edensor (2012), Millington (2017), Kirksey (2015), and Tsing (2015), among several others, there is an emerging re-theorization of ruins and ruination by political ecologists which brings together both the discursive and material processes by which landscapes become “ruined” and through which claims of ruins and ruination offer grounds of hope for survival in an otherwise ecologically precarious world. This work offers fertile grounds for continuing the political ecological work which explores the various ways in which landscapes are subject to a variety of competing claims about how environments have been and should be used while at the same time suggesting ruins can exist as spaces of hope and possibility.


In this session, we seek work which critically and theoretically engages with conceptualizations of ruins, ruination, wastelands, and other ideas of supposed environmental degradation. We are interested in perspectives that trouble ruination narratives, highlighting not only how and by what mechanisms ruins have been intentionally created but also that look at ruins as sites of potential where life persists against all odds. More specifically, we are interested in understanding how historical notions of ruination as sites of dispossession in square with more novel approaches that see ruins as sites of hope.


We are interested in topics that address, but that are certainly limited to, the following questions: Is it possible that ruins can be both sites or devastation and potential?; How have narratives of ruination enabled uneven development, and how do contemporary framings of ruination challenge or further enable continued uneven development?; How are ecological ruins invoked to justify further ecological ruination?; Who, or what, lives in ruins; what kinds of life persist there despite ruination?; How do historical examples of ruination prefigure future ruination?


If you are interested in participating, please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to dyharris@clarku.edu and joshua.mullenite@wagner.edu by November 17, 2019. We are happy to chat about potential paper ideas and encourage other forms of participation beyond the traditional academic conference paper.

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