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Political Ecology and Environmental Thought in Latin America

Joanna Page

This seminar will explore key concepts in ecological and environmental thought in Latin America. One of the world’s most biodiverse regions, Latin America has suffered environmental damage at a disproportionate scale as a result of mining, deforestation, industrial contamination, monocrop agriculture, and other forms of habit destruction. Recent years have seen a huge increase in local conflicts over environmental issues as well as a growth in organizations that link local activists to regional and transnational networks.

Political ecology and environmental thought have unfolded in Latin America as a distinctively interdisciplinary and intercultural set of paradigms and practices that are often forged at the intersection of academia and activism. These approaches also seek to decolonize knowledge by facilitating a critical dialogue between Western science and traditional (indigenous) ecological knowledge. Guided by the work of thinkers such as Enrique Leff, Eduardo Gudynas, Arturo Escobar, Maristella Svampa, and Leonardo Boff, we will focus on several themes that have developed in Latin American ecological thought in recent decades, including the coloniality of nature, relational ontologies, biocentrism, buen vivir, the ethics of care, the rights of nature, and the commons. As a case study, we will explore the debates around transgenic maize in Mexico and how these were staged in exhibitions produced by the interdisciplinary research group Arte+Ciencia in 2012-14.

Required reading

Further reading