What is Political Ecology?

Political ecology (PE) addresses how power relations shape nature-society systems, complicate the binary between nature and culture, and understand and critique dominant forms of knowledge production and representation about human-nature entanglements. Political ecology has grown into a diverse field that attends to how power, representation, and knowledge production shape understandings of and interventions into nature-society systems. To this end, the Political Ecology Lab at UC Davis fosters collaborative projects addressing unequal power dynamics that cause and emerge from socio-environmental relations and changes. Through our collaboration, members imagine new possibilities on how to achieve a just world for humans and non-humans alike. 

About our lab

We conceive of our Lab as a place where disciplines like human geography, anthropology, and the environmental humanities converge. While we continue to explore what political ecology can and should mean at UC Davis, we intend to engage with relations between political ecologies and ontologies that both disagree and overlap, focusing on the emerging regional peculiarities of Northern California and on our obligations within the public university. We are critical of the limits of academic scholarship in enacting material change and we see our Lab as an opportunity to do political ecology in useful and applicable ways. As such, we are interested in expanding our scope to include creative ways of translating and communicating our scholarship to reach wider audiences, with the goal to influence changes in policy and shifting power relations. 

Our cluster coalesced following the Left Coast Political Ecology (LCPE) workshop held at UC Berkeley in 2018 in order to better connect burgeoning political ecologists on our campus. Since then, the PE Lab has become an exciting space of convergence for students and faculty through biweekly meetings and a growing listserv. We are graduate student founded and graduate students take on major leadership in our lab. Our group is currently comprised of students from graduate programs across campus: geography, cultural studies, ecology, anthropology, education, community development, and horticulture and agronomy. We held a writing retreat in May 2019 at the Bodega Bay Marine Laboratory where we engaged in discussions on our converging and diverging definitions of political ecology, a panel on interdisciplinary perspectives and approaches to political ecology, and graduate student workshops on subjects like post-truth, failure, and the connections between PE and environmental justice. In spring 2019 we also co-sponsored graduate student meetings with visiting political ecology scholars, including Dr. Julie Guthman (UCSC) and Dr. Jade Sasser (UCR).

 

Our work is supported by the UC Davis Feminist Research Institute and Davis Humanities Institute Transcollege Research Clusters. We have also been supported by the UC Davis Graduate Student Association.