Reimagining Political Ecology is a state-of-the-art collection of ethnographies grounded in political ecology. When political ecology first emerged as a distinct field in the early 1970s, it was rooted in the neo-Marxism of world system theory. This collection showcases second-generation political ecology, which retains the Marxist interest in capitalism as a global structure but which is also heavily influenced by poststructuralism, feminism, practice theory, and cultural studies. As these essays illustrate, contemporary political ecology moves beyond binary thinking, focusing instead on the interchanges between nature and culture, the symbolic and the material, and the local and the global.
Aletta Biersack's introduction takes stock of where political ecology has been, assesses the field's strengths, and sets forth a bold research agenda for the future. Two essays offer wide-ranging critiques of modernist ecology, with its artificial dichotomy between nature and culture, faith in the scientific management of nature, and related tendency to dismiss local knowledge. The remaining eight essays are case studies of particular constructions and appropriations of nature, and the complex politics that come into play regionally, nationally, and internationally when nature is brought within the human sphere. Written by some of the leading thinkers in environmental anthropology, these rich ethnographies are based in locales around the world: in Belize, Papua New Guinea, the Gulf of California, Iceland, Finland, the Peruvian Amazon, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Collectively, they demonstrate that political ecology speaks to concerns shared by geographers, sociologists, political scientists, historians, and anthropologists alike. And they model the kind of work that this volume identifies as the future of political ecology: place-based "ethnographies of nature" keenly attuned to the conjunctural effects of globalization.