The University of Arizona

Re-inserting and re-politicizing nature: the resource curse and human-environment relations

Matthew Pritchard

Abstract


The last sixty years have seen a significant shift away from seeing resource wealth as a key component of positive macro-economic reform, to acceptance of the negative impacts that an abundance of, or dependence on, natural resources can have on security, economic growth, and the development of accountable political institutions. The appropriation and extraction of natural resources emerge as expressions of complex relations existing within and between states, institutions and actors. At the same time, the attention given to this potential 'resource curse' has precipitated a number of critiques that challenge not only the data and statistical methods used to link resource wealth with negative development outcomes, but also the theoretical foundation and relevance of studies that reduce complex socio-political and economic relations to the presence of specific resources. This article draws on key literature from the field of political ecology to demonstrate how the concept of 'nature' has been omitted from these discussions. Critical analysis of 'nature' can refine the theoretical foundation and practical application of the 'resource curse' thesis. By re-inserting, re-politicizing and re-localizing the concept of nature we can include local production and consumption in the analysis, while also highlighting the link between our understanding of natural resources and historically rooted discourses of 'proper-use.'

Key Words: Resource curse, political ecology, security, nature


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2458/v20i1.21751