Political ecology and resilience: competing ‘interdisciplines’

The study of environment-society interactions is widely acknowledged to demand inter-disciplinary knowledge production. Yet there are multiple ways of being interdisciplinary. Both “political ecology” and “resilience” (or socio-ecological systems) are research approaches that explicitly claim to be inter- or even post-disciplinary.Both approaches are currently dominant in the study of society-environment interactions, engaging sizeable communities of students and scholars drawn from a range of traditional disciplines. Both approaches seeks to facilitate boundary crossings that are crucial at the interface of nature and society, leading to new insights and knowledge, and to solving problems that are not contained within the boundaries. Yet they can be seen as competing ‘interdiscplines’.

There are inevitably pressures to ‘discipline’ these ‘interdisciplines’. New paradigms eventually become Kuhnian ‘normal’ disciplines, following a Latourian process of disciplining through the mobilization of networks of scholars, institutions, publications, and conferences. The resulting outcome is multiple interdisciplinarities that use sieves of finer or coarser grain meshes within different ideological and epistemological frames to sift understandings of the complexities of environment­society interactions. Political ecology and resilience have separate intellectual traditions, with some fundamental differences in purpose, in epistemology, in explanatory tools, and in ideology – illustrating that there are multiple ways of being interdisciplinary.

In a recently publish book chapter, Priya Rangan and I explore these differences. We reflect on the extent to which the ‘interdisciplines’ of political ecology and resilience, both operating at the interface of science-nature-society, can thrive without creating new boundaries and disciplinary dogmas. The paper builds on a presentation I gave in 2013 at a workshop in Cerisy, France held for the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking journal Natures, Sciences, Sociétés (see my 2013 blog post about that event).

Kull, CA & H Rangan (2016) Political ecology and resilience: competing interdisciplinarities? In Interdisciplinarités entre Natures et Sociétés: Colloque de Cerisy, edited by Hubert, B & N Mathieu. Bruxelles: P.I.E. Peter Lang, 71-87. (pdf)

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One Response to Political ecology and resilience: competing ‘interdisciplines’

  1. Thank you for sharing this paper, Christian. We organised a seminar in Paris on this topic, in the frame of the series of seminar ‘Governing nature’ (http://glv.hypotheses.org/archives/programme/5-theorie-de-la-resilience-et-political-ecology). To prepare the discussion, I watched this very helpful video (debate between Garry Peterson and Alf Hornborg) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_NCSQ1qNac&feature=plcp

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