The University of Arizona

Introduction: engaged scholarship for non-capitalist political ecologies

Brian J. Burke, Boone Shear


The articles in this special section, by offering ethnographically grounded reflections on diverse strains of economic activism, begin to articulate a non-capitalocentric political ecology that we think can help scholaractivists politicize, reimagine, and recreate socio-ecological relations. In this introductory article, we offer a useful vision of how scholar-activists can engage with and support more just and sustainable ways of organizing human–human and human–environment relations. Specifically, we argue that engaged researchers can significantly contribute to a meaningful "ecological revolution" by (1) examining the tremendously diverse, already-existing experiments with other ways of being in the world, (2) helping to develop alternative visions, analyses, narratives, and desires that can move people to desire and adopt those ways of being, and (3) actively supporting and constructing economies and ecologies with alternative ethical orientations. Each article in this collection attempts one or more of these goals, and this introductory article provides a conceptual grounding for these ethnographic studies and a synthesis of some of their primary contributions. We begin by describing why critique is analytically and politically inadequate and explain why we think a non-capitalocentric ontology offers an essential complement for engaged scholarship. We then turn to the work of J.K. Gibson-Graham and the Community Economies Collective in order to explain how ideas of overdetermination, diverse economies, and performativity better equip the field of political ecology to contribute to alternative futures. And finally, we discuss how the articles in this volume reconceptualize values, politics, and scale in a manner that illuminates our scholarly and activist efforts.

Keywords: non-capitalism, political ecology, alternative economies, capitalism, scale, values, politics, Gibson-Graham

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