Political ecology is the study of the relationships between political, economic and social factors with environmental issues and changes. Political ecology differs from apolitical ecological studies by politicizing environmental issues and phenomena.
Political ecology is a theoretical and methodological approach to the study of socio-ecological systems. It focuses on conflicts, power relations and uneven distribution of environmental costs and benefits. The field seeks to "politicise" debates about environmental problems, and thereby stands in contrast to a-political ecologies that try to understand environmental issues in terms of universal driving forces related to, for example, population trends or biophysical factors. When studying natural sciences or engineering, students become trained to focus on technical solutions. Political ecology enhances this horizon crucially. The content and slides of this study circle are strongly inspired and adapted from a lecture given at the Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (KTH) in Stockholm by Ethemcan Turhan.
With the study group we try to familiarise with central concepts and tools used by political ecologists. Unlike other sciences that you may be familiar with so far, political ecology does not work with experiments, modelling or quantitative analysis; instead, the course takes as its point of departure theoretical concepts that are documented through case studies which combine qualitative and quantitative information in an empirically-backed narrative ("story"). In the meetings we will focus on different key concepts from political-ecological theory and use an important, published case study to illustrate how this concept is "put to work". The theoretical discussion are accompanied by reflections on power relations.
By the end of the semester we hopefully will be able to:
• Describe the present-day ecological crisis in the world from multiple perspectives: political-economic, cultural and epistemological
• Analyse the historical processes that have led to the current crisis and how different social groups have been influenced by environmental problems in different geo-historical contexts;
• Develop new and imaginative ways to conceptualize nature-society relationships in different geopolitical, historical and cultural contexts in order to contribute to the design of a more inclusive and socially just environmental policy.