Summer School

Political Ecologies between Power, Political Economy and Post-Truth - 4 ECTS

The Six-day intensive PhD workshop ‘Political Ecology between Power, Political Economy and Post-Truth’ will be held from 27 June – 3 July 2018 in Wageningen, the Netherlands. This course is planned to complement the 2nd biannual conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN) in Oslo, Norway from 20-22 June 2018. The workshop gives motivated PhD candidates the chance to deepen their knowledge on political ecologies in the contemporary era of intensifying post-truth politics, and to interact with the international team of cutting-edge scholars we have assembled to deliver the course.

Organisator Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS)

wo 27 juni 2018 tot di 3 juli 2018 09:00

Locatie Leeuwenborch, building number 201
Hollandseweg 1
6706 KN Wageningen

The course covers two broad and interrelated thematic areas of interest in contemporary political ecology:

1. The links between power, political economy and post-truth Over the last decade in particular, we are increasingly described as living in a “post-truth” world. Propelled into popular currency especially after Brexit and the election of Trump as US president, the idea of post-truth signals something fundamental in how the global political economy and its associated (scientific) knowledge production system is evolving and what this implies concerning our understanding of the relationship between knowledge and truth. Of course, we know from Michel Foucault that knowledge and power have long, if not always, been deeply intertwined, but post-truth seems to signal something different and new in this dynamic. In this sense, post-truth can be understood as a particular strategy of power that plays off and functions within the peculiar dynamics of global capitalism in the contemporary world. Understanding these particularities and peculiarities is crucial in understanding what types of representations, practices and contestations post-truth triggers and how to deal with these.

2. Political ecologies in the post-truth era How does post-truth affect how we see, understand and deal with intertwined environmental, political, economic and social issues? Obviously, many ecologists, conservationists and environmentalists understand issues such as environmental degradation, climate change, the loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction, and so forth, as basic truths confirmed by scientific research that we must urgently act upon. But how do we both conceptualize act upon these and other “basic truths” in the post-truth era? How do we relate this to critical social scientists’ characteristic analysis of the constructions of “truths” about ecological issues in specific times and places? Does there remain a place for scholarly “critique” in an era in which such critique seems to be mobilized most effectively in support of a post-truth project of global accumulation? In short: how do we understand and practice political ecologies of post-truth, power and political economy, at both macro and micro scales, and the links between these, in this bold new era?

These two interrelated themes form the core of the 2018 Wageningen Political Ecology PhD summer school. The PhD course aims to provide PhD students with an advanced introduction to these two themes, their interconnections, and current academic perspectives on both. In the introductions and discussions, the theme and practice of ‘contestation’ will be central. Theories of truth, post-truth and the construction of knowledge more generally are, of course, contested. We will delve into these contestations and employ them productively to get a handle on different trends and traditions in political ecology. Special emphasis will be on identifying contestations between and among different theoretical traditions, empirical settings, material resources and political objectives that inform, or form the subject of, various political ecology studies. What consequences do different choices with regard to these ‘ingredients’ have for the types of political ecology presented in the literature and presentations? And how can we harness the contestations inherent within them to inform our own understanding and use of political ecology in research and action? One of the objectives of the course, then, is to answer the question of how to start thinking about political ecology in the post-truth era.

Besides looking for contestations in the literatures and presentations, we will also practice contestation. In small and large group discussions, we will aim to stimulate intellectual debate through various strands of argument and critique and problematize these from various angles. In this way, the course also explicitly incorporates development of academic debating skills. Moreover, on the Saturday, we will have a day-long excursion where we visit the Oostvaardersplassen, a famous protected area in the Netherlands that was ‘rewilded’ from land reclaimed from the sea. This case exemplifies many of the issues we will address in the course, as battles over the truth about nature and how this should inform environmental management have raged ever since the start of the park. We will explore these battles though interaction with rangers, managers and academics who study the park.

Altogether, the workshop and these debates are also meant to support the second objective of the workshop, namely to contribute to a broader understanding of the meaning and nature of political ecology in the 21st century.

Wednesday 27 June Morning: the links between post-truth, power and political economy Prof. Bram Büscher and Dr. Robert Fletcher
Afternoon: Radical Ecological Democracy and the post-truth moment Dr. Ashish Kothari
Thursday 28 June Morning: Political ecology and post-truth Prof. Bram Büscher and Dr. Robert Fletcher
Afternoon: Agrobiodiversity conservation politics (title to be confirmed) Dr. Garrett Graddy-Lovelace
Friday 29 June FIELD trip to Oostvaardersplassen Dr. Clemens Driessen
Saturday 30 June Morning: Post-truth in the Anthropo-obscene (title to be confirmed) Prof. Eric Syngedouw
Afternoon: Open Discussion Prof. Bram Büscher and Dr. Robert Fletcher
Sunday 1 July FREE DAY (social activity in town)
Monday 2 July Morning: Post-truth and the politics of Environmental knowledge (title to be confirmed) Prof. Esther Turnhout
Afternoon: Open afternoon Prof. Bram Büscher and Dr. Robert Fletcher
Tuesday 3 July Morning: The waters of (post-)truth (title to be confirmed) Prof. Rutgerd Boelens
Afternoon: Open afternoon Prof. Bram Büscher and Dr. Robert Fletcher

Target group

The course “Political Ecology between Power, Political Economy and Post-Truth” is intended for PhD candidates across the social and environmental sciences, especially anthropology, geography, political science, sociology and development studies, with an interest in political ecology. In this course, we will move between close reading of texts, workshops, discussions, and field trips. Participants following this course will not only learn about contestations in relevant themes and new dynamics in political ecology, but will also become part of and interpret these contestations.

Students participating in this course are expected to write a short statement (max. 1 page A4) to: i) introduce who they are in terms of disciplinary background and education ii); outline how they (intend to) engage with the two identified themes in political ecology (conflict, violence / capitalism and the environment); iii) outline questions or issues on these themes with which they would like to engage; and iv) offer expectations from the course. 

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a thorough knowledge of new dynamics in the links between knowledge, power, (post-truth) and the environment, and the intersections among these;
  • Critically reflect on different political ecology approaches to these themes and employ these in social science research;
  • Broadly understand some of the main contestations around these themes in relation to theoretical traditions, empirical emphases, political projects and material resources;
  • Formulate whether and how elements of these discussions and contestations could fit on and contribute to their own research projects;
  • Engage in active learning, critical thinking and academic debating, especially by positioning oneself in (relation to) academic contestations.

Assumed prior knowledge

MSc in social sciences: anthropology, geography, political science, sociology or development studies.

Course fee

WASS, PE&RC and WIMEK/SENSE PhDs with TSP € 250
a) All other PhD candidates b) Postdocs and staff of the above mentioned Graduate Schools € 500
All others € 750

NB: for some courses, PhD candidates from other WUR graduate schools with a TSP are also entitled to a reduced fee. Please consult your Education/PhD Programme Coordinator for more information

Cancellation conditions:

The participants can cancel their registration free of charge 1 month before the course starts. A cancellation fee of 100% applies if a participant cancels his/her registration less than 1 month prior to the start of the course.

The organisers have the right to cancel the course no later than one month before the planned course start date in the case that the number of registrations does not reach the minimum.

The participants will be notified of any changes at their e-mail addresses.