6th Annual Dimensions of Political Ecology (DOPE) Conference
February 26 - 27, 2016
Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Political Ecology in Hostile Spaces: Networks of Tactical Solidarity for the Neoliberal Anthropocene
Science cannot be neutral. The positive and negative effects of knowledge production are always distributed unequally across time and space. Therefor one cannot say that scientists must take sides for, in truth, we already have. The effects of scientific practice make it fundamentally partisan. Recognizing this, political ecologists share a commitment to work that benefits the harmed, the dispossessed, and those lacking in institutional power. Unfortunately, as universities increasingly seek investment by the private sector and come under attack as bastions of liberal indoctrination by conservative commentators, the spaces in which we practice grow increasingly hostile. To both interdisciplinary scholars and critical scholars within formal disciplines we ask: How do we thrive in hostile environments?
Recently, ecologists have investigated the various semio-chemical signals by which plants affect one another through the transmission and reception of volatile chemicals in the air and through common mycelial networks (CMNs) underground. CMNs have been shown to link plants over great distances, and to give linked plants a survival advantage through the transfer of various nutrients, defense signals, and allelochemicals (biochemicals that influence the growth, survival, and reproduction of other organisms). These CMNs help plants adapt to hostile environments as well as to combat the inhospitable aspects of such an environment. In light of the highly inequitable distribution of harm that marks today (and tomorrow’s) overlapping crises, we invite reflection on how these underground semio-chemical networks might inspire our practice as scholars who must inhabit, adapt to, and contest, increasingly hostile environments.
We are seeking perspectives on the types of associations and alliances needed for an anthropocenic future. We hope to look closely at the intersections of scholarship and practice, to address both the theoretical implications of trans/a/multi/inter-disciplinary work as well as the concrete practice of political ecology. Building off of this year’s theme examining the practice of a “public political ecology”, panelists will address how to ensure that practices of mutual aid thrive beyond the safer spaces of conceptually aligned conferences and working groups. We aim to develop a better understanding methods of tactical solidarity in the uncertain and precarious Anthropocene.
Questions to explore include;
- How have you maneuvered in/across various environments?
- From what kinds of material and informational support have you benefited?
- What makes an environment hostile? What sorts of support was lacking?
- In what ways can we enable intersections across multiple fields of knowledge production?
- How we might confront the dominant trend towards isolation and abstraction in the practice of social and physical sciences?
- What forms of mutual aid can improve the environments in which we practice?
- How can political ecologists–as a collective–cultivate environments that are conducive to work that is justice-oriented, and actively hostile to purportedly neutral and uncritical work?
Confirmed panelists include Adrian Parr, Timothy W. Luke, Gabriel Piser and Jordan Laney. We will be selecting two-three additional participants representing a range of fields and practices. We request short reflections shared by panel participants which will be followed by a facilitated discussion with the audience.
We are seeking additional participants who work in the fields of earth and social sciences, continental philosophy, feminist science studies, queer, anti-racist and de-/post-colonial thought, and practitioners of critical pedagogy and participatory action research. If you are not able to participate but know of scholars, activists, or practitioners who may be interested, please feel free to pass on the call.
- Babikova, Zdenka, et al. "Underground allies: How and why do mycelial networks help plants defend themselves?." BioEssays 36.1 (2014): 21-26.
- Babikova, Zdenka, et al. "Underground signals carried through common mycelial networks warn neighbouring plants of aphid attack." Ecology Letters 16.7 (2013): 835-843.
- Gorzelak, Monika A., et al. "Inter-plant communication through mycorrhizal networks mediates complex adaptive behaviour in plant communities." AoB plants (2015): plv050.
- Johnson, David, and Lucy Gilbert. "Interplant signalling through hyphal networks." New Phytologist 205.4 (2015): 1448-1453.