The University of Arizona

Decolonizing political ecology: ontology, technology and 'critical' enchantment

Karsten A Schulz

Abstract


Abstract Current debates about the Anthropocene have sparked renewed interest in the relationship between ecology, technology, and coloniality. How do humans relate to one another, to the living environment, and to their material or technological artifacts; and how are these relations structured by coloniality, defined not only as a material process of appropriation and subjugation, but also as an exclusionary hierarchy of knowing and being that still pervades contemporary life? While these questions have of course received attention in decolonial theory, they have also captured the interest of scholars who self-identify with the field of political ecology. However, it can be argued that political ecology still primarily adheres to research practices and paradigms that have been developed in the West, regardless of its diversity and dynamism as a field of research. It is therefore suggested that a rapprochement between decolonial theory and political ecology can open up new perspectives on current debates that are emerging around the concept of the Anthropocene. In particular, the article takes the recent interest in the ontological implications of the Anthropocene as a point of departure to bring the decolonial notion of 'border thinking' into a conversation with the so-called 'new materialism' in political ecology. While both approaches are not necessarily opposed to values grounded in rationality, they can be seen as attempts to rethink ontological divisions such as human/nature or subject/object based on 'enchanted' ways of knowing and being-in-the-world. Yet, although enchantment has the potential to counter inherently colonial practices of appropriation, commodification and objectification, it is argued that keeping a moderately critical distance to enchanted narratives is still recommended, not because of the alleged naïveté of such narratives, but rather because enchantments may also function as and through technologies of power. Key words: Anthropocene; political ecology; decoloniality; new materialism; border thinking; ontology; enchantment

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2458/v24i1.20789