Fellow Story

Harris co-authors a case for experimental and speculative political ecologies

Abstract: One of political ecology's main strengths is its emphasis on critique, and, through critique, its ability to better understand nature-society relations. Recently, calls have been made from within the sub-discipline – and from the social sciences more broadly – to move beyond critique, to engage nature-society relations more experimentally. Experimental approaches to nature-society relations invite new techniques and methods to study issues as they emerge, as opposed to those that have already happened. To this end, much has been written about the limits of human reasoning and understanding in the face of large-scale environmental crises like climate change. Complementing experimental sensibilities, speculative approaches to nature-society relations engage directly in the politics of expanding imaginative, perspectival, and political capacity in the face of these changes. The aim of this article is threefold. First, we will highlight scholarship that informs already existing approaches to experimental and speculative political ecologies, tying these threads together to elucidate a larger research agenda. Second, by way of example, we will discuss two case studies – solar's role in Colorado's 'just transition' and speculative climate futures and CRISPR-based gene drives and environmental management – to inform our discussion. Finally, this article serves as the introduction to a Special Section, in which we will outline and connect three articles that point towards how political ecology can be done with an eye more explicitly trained towards the future.

Citation: Harris, D. M. & Santos, D., (2023) “A case for experimental and speculative political ecologies”, Journal of Political Ecology 30(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/jpe.5589