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The Ecology of Images

Seeing and the Study of Religion

David Morgan

Opening with a review of leading accounts of the image as an object with agency, this article proposes to study religious images within the webs or networks that endow them with agency. The example of a well-known medieval reliquary serves to show how what I refer to as 'focal objects' participate in the creation of assemblages that engage human and non-human actors in the social construction of the sacred. Focal objects are nodal points that act as interfaces with the network, particularly with invisible agents within it. As participants in a network, images are like masks, offering access to what looks through the mask at viewers engaged in a complex of relations that constructs a visual field or the ecology of an image.

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An ecology of difference

Equality and conflict in a glocalized world

Arturo Escobar

This paper develops a broad conceptualization of what could be called a political ecology of difference. The paper builds on trends in political ecology, the politics of place, and cultural analyses of modern conceptions of nature, rights, and the individual to outline an integrated framework for thinking about difference from the perspective of economic, ecological, and cultural distribution conflicts. The argument is illustrated with a case study from the Pacific rainforest region of Colombia, particularly the political ecology developed by the region’s social movement of black communities; the paper concludes with implications of the framework for thinking about the cultural politics of dominant institutions and their potential transformation along the lines of a politics of difference.

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Teresa Lloro-Bidart

This article begins by introducing educational humanism, the Anthropocene concept, and the political ecology of education framework that guides the analysis. I then demonstrate that the current Anthropocene-informed educational research literature pragmatically focuses on how education has the capacity to serve as a means to adapt to the impending environmental challenges of the current geological epoch. I argue that though this literature makes important contributions, educational researchers doing Anthropocene-informed work would benefit from an ecofeminist and/or posthumanist political ecology of education. This conceptual lens: (1) examines how the kinds of human-nature relationships perpetuated in educational spaces are the result of complex and scaled political factors and (2) questions and reimagines human-nature divides reified in educational practice and research. Throughout the article, the persistent humanism of the American formal education system is critiqued, drawing on both the extant literature and a textual analysis of the Framework for K–12 Science Education.

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Jennifer Foster

This paper considers the transformation of two decommissioned rail lines, in Paris and New York City, into ecologically-oriented green space. Situating the restoration of these rail lines within dominant trajectories of urbanization helps to understand how ecological restoration projects may function as financial instruments that intensify experiences of social injustice. This paper considers how the design and aesthetics of New York's High Line and Paris' Sentier Nature construct ecologies that also produce environmental subjectivities, and how these spaces reflect uneven investment in nature across urban landscapes. While the two case studies are aesthetically distinct, they are both woven into existing global patterns of urban transformation, and their evolution from disused industrial space to public park shares an emotional attachment to safety that demands removal of threatening inhabitants.

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Dennis W. MacDonald

Among the many contributions of Roderick D. McKenzie to sociology are two ideas which continue to be useful in understanding modern society. First, as the main proponent and theorist of the human ecology of the Chicago School, McKenzie offers suggestions for an alternative conception of society, one that emphasizes among other things the physical basis of social relations. Secondly, McKenzie's works suggest in various ways that modern society is characterized by a growth in physical integration. The first aspect of this argument is found in his discussion of the centrality of institutions in the analysis of social relations. The second aspect is his detailed description and analysis of the “great integrated unity“ that he called the Great Society or World Society. Many decades before sociologists began to write of “globalization,“ McKenzie provides detailed description and extensive analysis of global society and many of the issues in the current globalization debate.

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New Horizons for Sustainable Architecture

Hydrological Design for the Ecologically Responsive City

Brook Muller

In this article, I explore conceptual strategies encouraging an ecologically responsive, water-centric approach to architectural design, such that design interventions become nature/culture hybrids connecting urban dwellers to larger hydrological conditions. I consider the notion of horizons as one mechanism for working out a trajectory for sustainable architecture, one that highlights experiential and environmental concerns simultaneously. In a conceptual shift, theorist David Leatherbarrow’s treatment of “three architectural horizons” (the equipmental—the objects of one’s immediate setting; the practical—the enclosure of a building; and the environmental— what lies beyond) are reshuffled: the practical expands to the watershed (the bioregion as common dwelling place) while environmental processes couple with the equipment of buildings, such that architectures deliver net positive watershed impact.

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The Ecology of Class

Revolution, Weaponized Nature, and the Making of Campesino Consciousness

Christopher R. Boyer

Mexican villagers endured three decades of dispossession during the late nineteenth-century dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz (1876–1880, 1884–1911). The transfer of most lands held by communities known as pueblos led many rural people to join the Mexican revolution of 1910–1917, and it helped to structure the postrevolutionary politics. Using E. P. Thompson's concept of “community,” this article suggests that villagers' sense of solidarity formed by their shared lives within the pueblos, and leavened by collective experiences during the Díaz dictatorship and revolution, helped them to forge a new identity as campesinos with an inherent right to land reform during the postrevolutionary era. A core component of campesino identity was opposition to hacienda owners. This opposition set up a struggle over land during the 1920s and 1930s that led some landowners to “weaponize nature” by destroying natural resources such as forests rather than turning it over to villagers through the land reform.

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Cultivating Civic Ecology

A Photovoice Study with Urban Gardeners in Lisbon, Portugal

Krista Harper and Ana Isabel Afonso

Urban gardens are a form of self-provisioning, leisure and activist practice that is cropping up in cities around the world (Mougeot 2010). We present the history and contemporary terrain of Lisbon’s urban gardens and discuss the cultural values that gardeners attach to the practice of growing food in interstitial urban spaces. We present initial findings from our research with an urban gardeners’ association as it attempts to transform informal or clandestine garden spaces into an ‘urban agricultural park’. This coalition of gardeners from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds is reclaiming land and using a participatory design process to create a shared space. They hope to grow vegetables and to re-grow ‘community’ by forging shared experiences in the neighbourhood. We describe how we used Photovoice as a process for exploring residents’ motivations in planting informal and community gardens on public land. What visions of sustainability and the contemporary city emerge from the practice of urban gardening? What kinds of urban gardening practices produce ‘communities of practice’ that cross ethnic, socioeconomic, and generational lines? The Photovoice approach allowed us to examine how gardeners conceptualise their use of urban space as they build new civic identities around gardening and make political claims to gain access and control over vacant land.

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Afterword

Heeding Headless Thoughts

Eduardo Kohn

This afterword reflects on how the Matsutake Worlds Research Group project can be considered as ontological. The multispecies ethnographic engagements presented in this special issue manifest not only the concepts inherent in the worlds of others that defy the categories of Western metaphysical thought (e.g., life forms seen as ‘events’ rather than mere things), but also the way in which non-human life forms themselves can demand that we practice another kind of thought and embrace another vision of our own selves. By succumbing to the allure of the matsutake fungus, the Matsutake Worlds Research Group has begun one of the most suggestive and original conceptual enterprises today, a practice that perhaps could be named ‘heeding headless thoughts’.

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Belonging to Spontaneous Order

Hayek, Pluralism, Democracy

Stephanie Erev

Reading Friedrich Hayek’s late work as a neoliberal myth of the state of nature, this article finds neoliberalism’s hostilities to democracy to be animated in part by a romantic demand for belonging. Hayek’s theory of spontaneous order expresses this desire for belonging as it pretends the market is capable of harmonizing differences so long as the state is prevented from interfering. Approaching Hayek’s work in this way helps to explain why his conceptions of both pluralism and democracy are so thin. It also suggests that neoliberalism’s assaults upon democracy are intimately linked to its relentless extractivism. Yet the romantic elements in Hayek’s work might have led him toward a more radical democratic project and ecological politics had he affirmed plurality for what it enables. I conclude with the suggestion that democratic theory can benefit from learning to listen to what Hayek heard but failed to affirm: nature’s active voice.