The University of Arizona

Conflict ecologies: Connecting political ecology and peace and conflict studies

Philippe Le Billon, Rosaleen V Duffy


Conflict is at the core of many political ecology studies. Yet there has been limited engagement between political ecology and the field of peace and conflict studies. This lack of connection reflects in part the broader disciplinary context of these two fields. Whereas political ecology research mostly comes from disciplines that eschewed environmental determinism, such as human geography, much of peace and conflict studies is associated with political science using positivist approaches to determine the causal effects of environmental factors on conflicts. Yet greater connections are possible, notably in light of political ecology's renewed engagement with 'materialism', and peace and conflict studies’ increasingly nuanced mixed-methods research on environment-related conflicts. Furthermore, political ecology's emphasis on uneven power relations and pursuit of environmental justice resonates with the structural violence approaches and social justice agenda of peace and conflict studies. This paper provides an overview of the differing conceptualizations and analyses of environmental conflict under the labels of political ecology and peace and conflict studies, and points at opportunities for closer connections.

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