When Species Invade: Towards a Political Invasion Ecology.
Dimensions of Political Ecology (DOPE) Conference | University of Kentucky | Lexington, KY | 26-28 February 2015
Organizers: Matthew Rosenblum (University of Kentucky), Laura Ogden (Dartmouth College)
Scholars from a range of fields loosely organized under the banner of ‘political ecology’ have become increasingly attentive to the lives of non-human beings. Political ecologists in geography have situated their research in sites as diverse as the laboratory and the slaughterhouse, spaces where non-human life is made and unmade, to the end of showing the relevance of non-human bodies in socio-spatial processes. The turn toward affect, experimentation, and liveliness in the ecological humanities and social sciences has produced fruitful accounts of the intimacies involved in ‘when species meet’ but has left much about the being ‘out of place,’ the radically contingent, irredeemably destructive, or invasive species, yet to be said. What has been said in the social sciences, and indeed even in the natural sciences, is often preoccupied with the existing vocabularies of invasiveness and the ways in which the rhetoric of invasion ecology is linked to rhetoric’s of colonialism, nationalism (Olwig 2003, Groning & Wolschke-Bulmahn 2003), xenophobia (Subramaniam 2001), etc., with attention to how these emotive and value-laden discourses implicate the practice of conservation biology Of course the link between the discourses of the natural sciences and modes of human marginalization is important since such taxonomic strategies have facilitated “beastly behavior toward the animalized and the naturalized” (Coates 2006; 135). But beyond these anthropocentric arguments which problematize invasion ecology largely because of its effect on human communities are the violently excluded bodies of the invasive and the feral. In many ways the popular discussions of invasiveness have abounded to the detriment of exploring questions of how metaphor and discourse motivate agents to act upon the world (Bono 2003), to what end these actions endeavor towards, and whether or not those actions are commensurate with a worthwhile ethical framework. After all, “the search for a precise lexicon of terms and concepts in invasion ecology is not driven by concerns for just semantics” (Pyšek et al. 2004; 131), it is about action, and surely a process of categorization that is meant to decide which beings belong and which do not has real, felt, material, consequences. While the discursive focus takes furry, leafy, and other invasive bodies as its object, these beings are, ironically absent. Discussions about what nomenclature is best suited to categorize certain forms of nonhuman life have virtually ignored the fact that the practice of invasion ecology implicates humans as well as nonhumans in an economy of violence directed at the attainment of a certain ecological ideal (Robbins & Moore 2013) through the use of “quarantine, eradication, and control” (Elton  2000; 110). In this light, even many of the most critically aware scholars has failed to ask questions about the value of invasive lives and whether killing them is in line with a truly political ecology, one that views “ecological systems as power-laden rather than politically inert” (Robbins 2012; 13)- one that includes non-human lives as subjects of politics rather than mere objects of human fascination.
The aim of this session is to move beyond the discourse of invasiveness to explore alternative ways of both politicizing the science and practice of invasion ecology and bringing invasive entities, both alive and dead back into the discussions that implicate them. Topics might include, but should not be limited to:
-Queer critiques of ecological futurism
-Emotional geographies of ecological loss
-The ‘invasavore’ movement
-Non-constructivist approaches to invasiveness
-The biopolitics of invasive species management
-New directions in the discussion of the rhetoric of invasiveness
-The conflict between environmental ethics and animal ethics
-Invasiveness and landscape studies
-Animal Diaspora and non-human mobility
-Political ecologies of bordering
-Invasiveness and the politics of the Anthropocene
-‘Novel ecologies’ and engagements with scientific concepts such as equilibrium, resilience, etc.
Anyone interested in participating in the session should send an abstract of 500 words or less to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 10th, 2014. Participants must also register at the conference website: politicalecology.org by the registration deadline of November 17th 2014.
Bono, J. J. "Why Metaphor? Toward a Metaphorics of Scientific Practice." Science Studies: Probing the Dynamics of Scientific Knowledge. Ed. Sabine Maasen and Matthias Winterhager. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2001. 215-33.
Coates, Peter. American Perceptions of Immigrant and Invasive Species: Strangers on the Land. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006
Elton, Charles S. The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants. Chicago: U of Chicago,  2000.
Groning, Gert, and Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn. "The Native Plant Enthusiasm: Ecological Panacea or Xenophobia?" Landscape Research28.1 (2003): 75-88.
Olwig, Kenneth R. "Natives and Aliens in the National Landscape." Landscape Research 28.1 (2003): 61-74.
Pyšek, Petr, David M. Richardson, Marcel Rejmánek, Grady L. Webster, Mark Williamson, Jan Kirschner, Petr Pysek, and Marcel Rejmanek. "Alien Plants in Checklists and Floras: Towards Better Communication between Taxonomists and Ecologists." Taxon 53.1 (2004): 131.
Robbins, Paul. Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction. Maiden, MA: Blackwell, 2012.
Robbins, Paul, and S. A. Moore. "Ecological Anxiety Disorder: Diagnosing the Politics of the Anthropocene." Cultural Geographies 20.1 (2013): 3-19.
Subramaniam, Banu. "The Aliens Have Landed! Reflections on the Rhetoric of Biological Invasions." Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 2.1 (2001): 26-40.