Scholar Activist Praxis in the Political Ecologies of Appalachia

This session seeks papers and presentations about the practice of scholarship and activism in socio-ecological justice struggles of the Appalachian region. Most place-based struggles in Appalachia have the potential to be in conversation with political ecology, broadly defined as the study of the political economy of the environment (Robbins 2012). Furthermore, all forms of justice organizing in Appalachia are relevant for enriching our understanding of political ecology. Therefore, to broaden the ways political ecology scholarship can serve diverse publics, we seek presentations that grapple with scholar-activist praxis. Session organizers request proposals on diverse forms of regional political engagements—from environmental justice and anti-extraction activism to queer/trans justice and anti-racist organizing, as well as work on economic justice. Submissions from all relevant disciplines are welcome (e.g., sociology, geography, anthropology, political science, Appalachian Studies, and Environmental studies), and we strongly encourage submissions from those working outside the academy.


The session will build on and continue three prescient threads of conversation among scholars and activists concerned with questions of political ecology, bringing these issues into sharper relief through engagement with problems of socio-ecological injustice in Appalachia. In 2018, sessions at the Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference focused on communities of praxis (Osborne and Correia 2018) and brought together scholars to further the concept of Public Political Ecology (Osborne 2017). This session aims, first, to bring that conversation into regional focus. Second, we explicitly recognize that academic research—even the most ‘community-engaged’ work—can be extractive and self-serving and see a strong need to engage with regional discussions about this reality (e.g. Draper 2018). The session aims to further critiques articulated cogently by regional scholars, activists, and organizers. Finally, we aim to promote dialogue about the complicated praxis of scholar activism (e.g. Gilmore 2007). Informed by a theory of resourcefulness (Derickson and Routledge 2015), we understand that scholar activism takes diverse forms, where scholars make difficult choices regarding how to triangulate research between academic and community publics. Building from our regional cases, we hope to aid the development of frameworks for how research and scholarship can specifically support struggles for social and environmental justice in Appalachia.



Themes & Literatures: 

This session invites papers and presentations that address themes and/or literatures advancing political ecology praxis in the Appalachian region. Much scholarship of and from the region already theorizes political ecology, whether recognized as such or not: literatures on Appalachian environmental politics (Montrie 2003; Fisher and Smith 2012; Scott 2010; Bell and York 2010; Bell 2016); land politics and power (Gaventa 1982; Reid and Taylor 2010); the commons and resistance (Hufford 1999); neoliberalism and anti-extraction organizing (Fisher and Smith 2012; Smith 2018); women’s roles in struggles for labor and the environment (Bell 2013; Wilkerson 2018); and queer ecologies in Appalachia (Scott and McNeil forthcoming), among many more. We welcome papers grappling with those literatures, as well as presentations that bring political ecology into conversation with queer politics (e.g., @QueerAppalachia 2017; 2019; Garringer 2019); anti-racist politics and of color critique in the region (e.g. Walker 2000; hooks 2012; Good 2012); studies of incarceration and prison land politics (e.g. Ryerson and Schept 2018); labor, non-profit industrial complexes and economic organizing (e.g. Ray 2019); and any projects furthering the development of Appalachian futurisms (Smith 2016).


To further conversations about political ecology scholarship and activist praxis in the Appalachian region, possible paper and presentation themes may include (but are not limited to):


  • Public Political Ecology in Appalachia

  • Praxis of political ecology scholarship and community engaged research in Appalachia

  • Queer ecologies and scholarly praxis in Appalachia

  • Praxis of Black, Latinx and of color critiques in/of Appalachia

  • Appalachian land politics and the politics of resistance

  • Scholar-activist praxis in studying carceral geographies/ecologies in Appalachia 

  • Environmental justice praxis

  • Political ecology of community economic development

  • Political ecology of a “just transition” in Appalachia 


Please submit an abstract of 250 words or less to Gabe Schwartzman (schw2217 [at] and Charlee Tidrick ( charleet83 [at] no later than Friday, November 15th. We will aim to notify session participants no later than Monday, November 18th, to allow time for conference registration on Dec. 1. For more information and to see the Dimensions of Political Ecology general call for participation, go to

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