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Complexity, Dynamism, and Agency: How Can Dialectical Biology Inform Geography?

Pon., 05/22/2017 - 09:10
Abstract

Dialectical approaches, variously interpreted, have been advocated for by geographers for several decades. At the same time, critical environmental geography has recently become dominated by vital materialist strands of thought, the advocates of which have sometimes framed their own work in opposition to dialectics. Critics perceive two major problems with a dialectical framework; that it cements a nature–society dualism and that it insufficiently accounts for the agency or vitality of non-human life. This paper seeks to address these criticisms by engaging with work by biologists who have been influenced by dialectical ideas. I outline two examples, Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins’ understanding of the way organism and environment mutually construct each other and research by Ivette Perfecto and John Vandermeer that offers a non-dualist approach to wildlife conservation in agricultural ecosystems. The article discusses some of the ways in which these understandings might inform contemporary debates in political ecology.

Politics of the Anthropocene: Formation of the Commons as a Geologic Process

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 11:05
Abstract

In the Anthropocene humanity acquires a new collective geologic identity. There are two contradictory movements in this Anthropocenic thought; first, the Anthropocenic trace in the geologic record names a commons from below insomuch as humanity is named as an undifferentiated “event” of geology; second, the Anthropocene highlights the material diversities of geologic bodies formed through historical material processes. This paper addresses the consequences of this geologic subjectivity for political thought beyond a conceptualization of the commons as a set of standing reserves. Discourses of limits and planetary boundaries are contrasted with the exuberance and surplus of fossil-fuelled energy. Drawing on the political economy of Georges Bataille and the material communism of Maurice Blanchot, I argue for the necessity of a political aesthetics that can traverse the difference between common and uncommon experience in the formation of an Anthropocene commons.

But I'm Just an Artist!? Intersections, Identity, Meaning, and Context

Pet., 05/05/2017 - 03:15
Abstract

This article revisits the complex intersections of identity and meaning in the context of a world in which cosmopolitanism is increasingly questioned. The role of the artist with regard to activism and cosmopolitan flows becomes difficult to navigate but important to probe. Findings drawn from fieldwork indicate that the artist is highly conflicted; often ephemerally aligned with various social movements that may or may not be related; and in a constant state of self-negotiation and identity formation that are highly dependent on local context. Intersectionality may be a useful frame to reconceptualize the artist as a relationally connected set of constantly shifting identities rather than an assumed category, as sometimes portrayed. Key to this is an appreciation of the role of the observer in this process. Singapore is envisioned as a place of intersecting identity; so, too, are the artists within it, caught between local context and global currents.

Riding the Rhino: Conservation, Conflicts, and Militarisation of Kaziranga National Park in Assam

Pet., 05/05/2017 - 03:10
Abstract

Since 2004, media and public opinion in Assam (India) have focused on increasing instances of poaching of rhinoceros for their horns and presence of Bengali-speaking Muslim peasants, especially in and around the iconic Kaziranga National Park. From hastily made digital films, to anti-poaching motifs at Durga Puja pandals, the plight of the rhinoceros has occupied an important position in an acrimonious political discourse on Assamese culture. The innocence and dignity attributed to the animal stands in marked contrast to the lack of discussion on the large numbers of young men who have been killed in anti-poaching campaigns by the state. This article looks at the interstices of class, culture and commerce in an attempt to understand the popular deification of the rhinoceros and implications of the developmental discourse that seeks to put people and rhino in their “rightful” place.

Issue Information - TOC

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 11:17

No abstract is available for this article.

Introduction: Critical Agrarian Studies in Theory and Practice

Pon., 04/24/2017 - 10:49
Abstract

In this introductory article we argue for renewed attention to life and labor on and of the land—or what we call the field of Critical Agrarian Studies. Empirically rich and theoretically rigorous studies of humanity's relationship to “soil” remain essential not just for historical analysis but for understanding urgent contemporary crises, including widespread food insecurity, climate change, the proliferation of environmental refugees, growing corporate power and threats to biodiversity. The article introduces an innovative and varied collection of works in Critical Agrarian Studies and also examines the intellectual and political history of this broader field.

Resumen

En este artículo introductorio sobre Estudios Agrarios Críticos planteamos que la tierra y el suelo—y las relaciones sociales y de trabajo que se desenvuelven ahí—merecen una renovada atención de parte de los científicos sociales. Los estudios empíricos y teóricamente rigurosos sobre la relación tierra/suelo/humanidad son imprescindibles no sólo para el análisis histórico sino para comprender las crisis contemporáneas urgentes, tales como la inseguridad alimentaria, el cambio climático, la proliferación de refugiados que huyen de desastres ambientales, el creciente poder de las grandes corporaciones y las amenazas a la biodiversidad. El artículo presenta una colección innovadora y variada de trabajos en Estudios Agrarios Críticos y también reflexiona sobre la historia intelectual y política de este campo de estudio.

Race and the Pitfalls of Emotional Democracy: Primary Schools and the Critique of Black Pete in the Netherlands

Pet., 04/21/2017 - 11:25
Abstract

A centrepiece of the Dutch festival of Sinterklaas, the blackface character Black Pete, has met with growing contestation in the past decade over its caricatural representation of people of African descent. Attacks on this national “happy object” elicited a host of majority responses that converged in professing non-racism. As the celebration is primarily thought of as a children's festival, schools across the Netherlands had to decide whether to maintain, alter or suppress the Black Pete character. This article considers the spatial politics of race that informed school decisions about the festival. We show geographical variation in the distribution between change and non-change. However, we find that both strategies were justified in the name of respect for “black feelings”, even as majority calls for mutual tolerance between proponents and opponents of Black Pete normatively portrayed multicultural society as conflict free and ultimately strove to disarm anti-racist critique by framing it as anti-democratic.

Zwarte Piet—een centraal figuur in het jaarlijkse Sinterklaasfeest—is vanwege zijn karikaturale representatie van afro-Nederlanders in het afgelopen decennium in toenemende mate onder druk komen te staan. Omdat de Sinterklaastraditie vooral gezien wordt als kinderfeest, zien veel basisscholen zich gedwongen een beslissing te nemen over de omstreden figuur. In dit artikel bespreken we hoe de ruimtelijke verbeelding van raciale spreiding een rol speelde in de strategieën van scholen om hiermee om te gaan tijdens de viering. Scholen maakten een verscheidenheid aan keuzes. Zowel scholen die niks veranderden aan het feest als scholen die dit wel deden, rechtvaardigden echter hun keuze met een beroep op “zwarte gevoelens”. Dit laatste ging gepaard met de roep om wederzijdse tolerantie tussen voor- en tegenstanders van Zwarte Piet. Hiermee riep een witte meerderheid het ideaalbeeld op van de conflictvrije multiculturele samenleving, met als gevolg dat antiracistische kritiek als antidemocratisch kon worden geframed.

Violent Inaction: The Necropolitical Experience of Refugees in Europe

Pet., 04/21/2017 - 09:56
Abstract

A significant outcome of the global crisis for refugees has been the abandonment of forced migrants to live in makeshift camps inside the EU. This paper details how state authorities have prevented refugees from surviving with formal provision, leading directly to thousands having to live in hazardous spaces such as the informal camp in Calais, the site of this study. We then explore the violent consequences of this abandonment. By bringing together thus far poorly integrated literatures on bio/necropolitics (Michel Foucault; Achille Mbembe) and structural violence (Johan Galtung), we retheorize the connections between deliberate political indifference towards refugees and the physiological violence they suffer. In framing the management of refugees as a series of violent inactions, we demonstrate how the biopolitics of migrant control has given way to necropolitical brutality. Advancing geographies of violence and migration, the paper argues that political inaction, as well as action, can be used as a means of control.

Trafficking in US Agriculture

Pet., 04/21/2017 - 09:42
Abstract

Based on a qualitative methodology that includes in-depth interviews with 90 Mexican migrant smugglers and 45 Central American farmworkers, this article analyzes the three separate elements of trafficking in US agriculture, namely acts, means, and purposes. We conclude that some US employers participate in human trafficking by financing or helping to recruit and transport Mexican and Central American migrants to the US by means of “abuse of a position of vulnerability” for the purposes of involuntary servitude, debt bondage, and sex exploitation.

A “Supertanker” Against Bureaucracy in the Wake of a Housing Crisis: Neoliberalizing Planning in Netanyahu's Israel

Pet., 04/21/2017 - 09:42
Abstract

This paper critically questions the state's hostile takeover of planning regulation followed by experimentation initiated by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has been seeking to subordinate the planning apparatus to market calculus and to short-term political ends. To substantiate this argument, I have examined a large corpus of documents (official government documents, planning records, and court appeals and rulings, and NGO reports) and analyzed the media coverage between 2011 and 2016. By introducing fast-track planning that is firmly controlled by the central state and focusing on the fictitious delivery of housing units, the structure of the planning regulation has dramatically changed. Further, two already-dominant government ministries (Finance and Defense) have been significantly empowered, becoming the supervisors of the reformed planning system. In a state captivated by neoliberal fixation and embroiled in a housing crisis, the restructuring of planning governance has been a means to an end.

Enclosures from Below: The Mushaa’ in Contemporary Palestine

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 09:10
Abstract

This article traces the declining fortunes of the mushaa’, a once-prominent Levantine culture of common land. Palestinians managed to resist attempts by the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate to break up the mushaa’. Under Israeli colonization, the remaining commons are now subject to another type of appropriation: individual Palestinian contractors seize hold of mushaa’ land and build on it. This article introduces the concept of “enclosures from below”, whilst looking at the dynamics of seizure of the commons by Palestinian refugees, who once were peasants practising mushaa’ on their lands and are now landless, some having become expert contractors. I show that the contractors consider their actions to be a form of resistance against the settler colonial project, manifested in the advancing of the Wall and settlement expansion. This is described through a case study of the Shu'faat area in Jerusalem. Changing uses of mushaa’ land reflect wider tendencies in the Palestinian national project that has become increasingly individualized.

ملخص

يتتبع هذا المقال الثروات المتناقصة للمشاع، الذي كان يوما ما ثقافة مشرقية سائدة للأراضي المشتركة، حيث استطاع الفلسطينيون مقاومة محاولات الإمبراطورية العثمانية والانتداب البريطاني، التي هدفت إلى تفكيك أراضي المشاع. حاليا، تحت الاستعمار الإسرائيلي، تتعرض أراضي المشاع المتبقية إلى نوع آخر من الاستيلاء: يقوم مقاولون فلسطينيون ويتفحص، ،“enclosures from below” بالاستيلاء على بعض أراضي المشاع والبناء عليها. يقدم هذا المقال مفهوم في الوقت ذاته، ديناميكيات الاستيلاء على بعض أراضي المشاع من قبل لاجئين فلسطينيين، كانوا يوما ما فلاحين في قراهم يستخدمون أراضي المشاع بشكل جماعي للزراعة، وأصبحوا الآن بدون أراضي، وصار البعض منهم مقاولا خبيرا. يبين المقال أيضا أن المقاولين يعتبرون الأنشطة التي يقومون بها هي شكلا من أشكال المقاومة الوطنية ضد مشروع الاستيطان الاستعماري، الذي يتجلى في جدار الفصل والتوسع الاستيطاني، وذلك من خلال دراسة حالة لمنطقة شعفاط في القدس، حيث تعكس الاستخدامات المتغيرة لأراضي المشاع نزعات واسعة في المشروع الوطني الفلسطيني، الذي أصبح فردانيا على نحو متزايد.

Equation and Adequation: The World Traced by the Phillips Curve

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 12:35
Abstract

This paper considers the power of abstract formalization in capitalism, via an account of the politics and geography of an equation. The equation in question lies behind the Phillips curve, which describes the relation between price inflation and unemployment or output. I examine the evolution of the equation and its relation to macroeconomics' renewed emphasis, since the late 1960s, on long-run monetary neutrality. Considering the Phillips curve and its theoretical and technical armature as social practice, I discuss some of the political and distributional questions that arise from the mode of spatial and temporal abstraction particular to modern macroeconomic analysis and policy-making. The paper has three parts: a brief history of the Phillips curve, an examination of its modern equation-form, and an analysis of its part in the dialectical process of “real abstraction”, through which logical space and time prioritize and produce both the spatial “macro” and the temporal “long-run”.

The Right to the World

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 12:35
Abstract

The global number of refugees, asylum seekers, and those displaced within their countries are at record levels in the post-World War II era. Meanwhile, efforts by relatively wealthy and powerful nation-states to exclude unwanted migrants through enhanced territorial control have reached unprecedented heights, producing great harm–most notably premature death–for many. The factors driving out-migration from homelands made unviable, coupled with multiple forms of violence experienced by migrants, demonstrate the need for an expansion of rights–conceived of as both entitlements and sites of struggle. So, herein, I assert the need for “the right to the world”–specifically a right to mobility and a just share of the Earth's resources–to help realize the promise of a dignified life for all. In making the case for such, the article offers a critical analysis of the contemporary human rights regime and of the “right to the city”.

Strata of the Political: Epigenetic and Microbial Imaginaries in Post-Apartheid Cape Town

Pet., 03/03/2017 - 07:15
Abstract

The epigenetic and microbiomic imaginaries that animate public health discourse on perinatal nutrition and the infant gut in South Africa offer a case study through which to reconsider the ontological presuppositions of “space” that frame epigenetic biopolitics. We suggest that the mutual constitution of the relations at stake in and around questions of nutrition, mothers and infants, the gut and sanitation in Khayelitsha, can be understood through a Deleuzian geomorphological image of “strata of the political”. Strata are conjunctural entanglements that temporarily stabilise when distinctions hold briefly, and that bring into alignment particular relations and forces that distribute life and non-life. This analytic makes visible and available to political life the spatio-temporal, socio-natural blurring of categories that epigenetic and microbiomic discourses could afford. Grounded ethnographic descriptions of these processes of “mattering” can challenge political epistemologies and take further critical perspectives on space to open up possibilities for a robust postgenomic politics.

Thinking Outside the Bubble of the Global North: Introducing Milton Santos and “The Active Role of Geography”

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 06:35
Abstract

Brazilian geographer Milton Santos is one of the most quoted, celebrated, and controversial social scientists of the so-called “global South”. His body of work employs a rich vocabulary including reinterpretations of concepts such as “totality”, as well as original concepts like “used territory”. These and other concepts have formed the basis of what could be called a “Miltonian” school of thought in geography. However, despite his national and regional importance to Brazil and the “global South” more generally, he has long been overlooked by the English-speaking community of geographers. The present article intends to bridge this gap by offering an introduction to Santos and to the English translation of one of his most important and hotly debated texts, “The Active Role of Geography: A Manifesto”.

A Fleet of Mediterranean Border Humanitarians

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 05:35
Abstract

EUrope has created a space of human suffering within which military-humanitarian measures seem urgently required if the mass drowning is to be halted. The framing of migration governance as humanitarian has become commonplace in spectacular border practices in the Mediterranean Sea. Nonetheless, maritime disasters continue to unfold. This article discusses three non-governmental actors, part of an emerging “humanitarian fleet” that seeks to turn the sea into a less deadly space: the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, Médecins Sans Frontières, and Sea-Watch. While the rescue of precarious lives and the alleviation of suffering are central concerns, they imagine their humanitarian practices, the subjects of their compassion, and EUrope's role in shaping borderzones in different ways, pointing to a wide humanitarian spectrum. Engaging with the different discursive frames created by the three “border humanitarians”, the article explores what possibilities exist for political dissent to emanate from within humanitarian reason.

Counting Carbon: Calculative Activism and Slippery Infrastructure

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 05:35
Abstract

The environmental movement in the global North is in a state of impasse. It appears that despite the renewed international focus on climate change, and the actions of innumerable social movements, a “solution” to the problem appears as one, without a viable solution. It is the contention of this paper that climate change has no clearly viable solution as it is a seemingly impossible problem. This paper investigates how the problem of climate change is constructed as a global object of political action and how it functions to render politics into a matter of calculative action, one that seeks—but fails—to take hold of a slippery carbon infrastructure. It concludes by suggesting one possible solution to this dilemma is to turn away from the global scalar logic of climate change and towards a situated focus on questions of infrastructure, or what Dimitris Papadopoulos calls “thick justice”.

Material, Political, and Biopolitical Dimensions of “Waste” in California Water Law

Pon., 02/13/2017 - 07:25
Abstract

California's state constitution prohibits the “wasteful” use of water; however, waste is subjective and context dependent. This paper considers political, biopolitical, and material dimensions of waste, focusing on the role of legal processes and institutions. The paper examines a case involving legal accusations of “waste and unreasonable use” of water by the Imperial Irrigation District in Imperial County, California. The determination that water was being “wasted” justified the transfer of water from agricultural to urban areas. However, defining these flows of water as a waste neglected water's complexity and relationality, and the enclosure of a “paracommons” threatens to bring about negative environmental and public health consequences. The paper shows that the project of discursively labeling certain material resource flows as waste and re-allocating these resources to correct this moral and economic failure relies upon legal processes, and carries political and biopolitical implications.

Issue Information - TOC

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 05:21

No abstract is available for this article.