About this course
This course problematizes the different ways that programs and policies of governance shape the livelihoods and socio-ecological environments of people - especially in the South. Special attention is paid to environmental distribution conflicts from a political ecology perspective as an important approach in development sociology. Central to political ecology is a concern with inequality and how this relates to material struggles over access to and control over natural resources and socio-ecological environments. Globalisation and political-economic processes in the neoliberal era have brought about new types of governance, characterised by a blurring of the divide between the public and the private, and a changing role of the state. In the course we discuss various perspectives on these trends: viewed from historical materialist and poststructuralist political ecology perspectives, this new governance architecture has enabled the development of new material livelihood strategies, new technologies of government (governmentality), and new forms of subjectivity.
The first part of the course introduces the field of political ecology and delves into some of the basics of natural resource distribution and how this affects people’s livelihoods. We will start with outlining how and why the field of political ecology developed and evolved, and then pay specific attention to the governance of natural resources and how this has been changing over the past decades under global neoliberalism. The second part of the course sets out to explore possible alternatives to the current neoliberal dominant order. Such an enquiry takes political ecology into the ‘ontological’ realm by shifting the analysis from the empirical level to a focus on people's different ways of ‘being in the world’, and the ways these inform other ideas about governing resources. Attending to such ontological encounters will deepen our sense of expanding our sense of possibility in an era in which it is sometimes said that it is easier to imagine the end of the planet than a change in the economic system. We will finish by discussing how everything we addressed is currently being complicated by implementation of the United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- analyze new conceptualizations of governance in relation to natural resources and socio-ecological change, especially from various political ecology perspectives;
- critically reflect on the strengths and limitations of a political ecology perspective on issues of livelihood strategies, environmental governance and natural resource distribution;
- select and apply a theoretical and methodological perspective for the study of resource distribution conflicts;
- reflect on the potential of critical theory to propose radical and realistic alternatives to the current neoliberal global order.
SDC21804 Introduction to the Sociology of Development, Knowledge and Change or equivalent