Political Ecology in the Key of Policy: From Chains of Explanation to Webs of Relation


Rocheleau, Dianne E. 2008. “Political Ecology in the Key of Policy: From Chains of Explanation to Webs of Relation.” Geoforum 39 (2): 716-27.

Author: Dianne E. Rocheleau


Political ecology (PE) is rooted in a combination of critical perspectives and the hard won insights distilled from field work. The theoretical base of political ecology was joined, by Piers Blaikie and others, to an unflinching commitment to empirical observation of biophysical and socio-economic phenomena in place. To this already ambitious mix was added a practical intent to contribute to material as well as social change: a practical political ecology of alternative development ran beneath the surface of much of this work. For many this led to serious encounters with policy and the machinery of policy research institutions. While seemingly contradictory with the critical tenets of political ecology, Blaikie’s pursuit of this pathway led beyond the ivory tower to Political Ecology in the Key of Policy, initially to inform national and international policy and eventually expanding – through the work of second-generation PE – to address internal policy in social movements and alternative development networks. Among recent variations on political ecology that have built partly on the work of Blaikie, Feminist Political Ecology (FPE) expands PE to address women as a group, and gender as a category. FPE and post-structural PE are based on multiple actors with complex and overlapping identities, affinities and interests. An emergent wave of political ecology joins FPE, post-structural theory, and complexity science, to address theory, policy and practice in alternatives to sustainable development. It combines a radical empiricism and situated science, with feminist post-structural theories of multiple identity and “location”, and alternative development paradigms. This approach honors the legacy of Piers Blaikie and other PE founders yet incorporates the insights and political projects of feminism, post-structural critique and autonomous or alternative development movements.

Keywords: Blaikie, political ecology, hybrid ecologies, feminist, post-structural, policy, development

Topics: Feminisms, Feminist Political Ecology, Gender, Women

Year: 2008

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