PhD Summer School: Political Ecologies in/of the Anthropocene: value, life and critique

We are excited to announce that enrollment for our next Political Ecology PhD summer school course is now open!! More information and a link to the registration page can be found here. The course fee is 500 € for non-Wageningen participants, which includes lunch and refreshments throughout the course. We’ve set the enrollment limit at 25 so it is likely to fill up quickly. This course immediately precedes our international conference ‘The Value of Life: Measurement, Stakes, Implications’ on 28-30 June which is shaping up to be quite an interesting event as well. You can registration for the larger conference here.

We hope to see many of you soon. A brief description of the course is as follows:

Political Ecologies in/of the Anthropocene: value, life and critique

Annual Political Ecology PhD summer school, Wageningen University

21-27 June 2017


Bram Büscher and Robert Fletcher


Bram Büscher (Wageningen University)

Robert Fletcher (Wageningen University)

Mindi Scheider (Institute of Social Studies)

Clemens Driessen (Wageningen University)

Neera Singh (University of Toronto)

Wolfram Dressler (University of Melbourne)

Chizu Sato (Wageningen University)

Rutgerd Boelens (Wageningen University / University of Amsterdam)

The five-day intensive PhD summer school ‘Political Ecologies in/of the Anthropocene: value, life and critique’ precedes the inaugural Centre for Space, Place and Society (CSPS) conference on ‘the Value of Life’, held from 28-30 June in Wageningen, the Netherlands. The summer school gives motivated PhD students the chance to deepen their knowledge on political ecologies in the Anthropocene, and to interact with several conference speakers and other interesting invited scholars. In line with the theme of the conference, the course covers two broad and interrelated thematic areas of interest in contemporary political ecology:

1. The emergence of the ‘Anthropocene’ and its competitors

It is increasingly asserted that we have entered a new phase in world history, namely the so-called ‘Anthropocene’. The term ‘Anthropocene’ was invented to signal ‘humanity’s’ enormous – even geology-changing – footprint on the earth; yet for many is a profoundly unsatisfying term. Jason Moore and others have recently started talking about the ‘capitalocene’ instead, while yet others talk about many different ‘o-cenes’ in designating this new era. Among other issues, such critics suggest that the term Anthropocene obscures the role of political economy in environmental impact as well as distinctions among the types and degree of impact caused by different groups of people.

The terms Anthropocene and capitalocene thus raise new yet somewhat familiar challenges for political ecology, for instance, in terms of longstanding questions of how to deal with the ‘ecology’ now that this is (again) being defined on a dramatically expanded geological level and timescale. The course will engage these issues in exploring how political ecology should/could address the Anthropocene discussion.

2. The value of life in the Anthropocene

If the Anthropocene signals a profound shift in the conditions of life on earth, how can we understand this shift, and what meanings does it give to human and non-human life? How does it change the governance of life, and how do we conceptualise this in terms of power, politics and ecology? How does this relate to growing discussions concerning how to ‘properly’ value life vis-à-vis, for instance, newfound promotion of ecosystem service valuation and natural capital accounting? The course will thus wrestle with the politics of how to value life in the Anthropocene as well.

These two themes are both complex yet intricately and intrinsically connected. The PhD course aims to provide students with an advanced introduction to these two themes, their interconnections, and recent academic thinking on both. In the introductions and discussions, the theme and practice of ‘contestation’ will be central. Theories on the Anthropocene are, of course, contested. We will delve into these contestations and employ them productively to get a handle on different trends and traditions in political ecology. Special emphasis will be placed on identifying contestations between and among different theoretical traditions, empirical settings, material resources and political objectives that inform, or form the subject of, various political ecology studies. What consequences do different choices with regard to these ‘ingredients’ have for the types of political ecology presented in the literature and presentations? And how can we employ the contestations inherent in them to inform our own understanding and use of political ecology? One of the outcomes of the course, then, is to answer the question how to start thinking about a political ecology of the Anthropocene.

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