Approaching entangled natural and social environments in Asia

Panel organised by: Martina Padmanabhan (Universität Passau)

Panel description

In Asia, one of the most pressing current issues is the need to reconcile the exploitation of natural and biological resources with social-ecological demands. Economically managing the existing biodiversity and biomass, without causing unintended social and environmental problems, demands critical analysis. Among and within Asian countries, a wide range of different premises and priorities, ideas and values on the issue exists. National industries and policies often face resistance from society, and industrial mining, farming, forestry and fishery fin d themselves in opposition to health, food, and environmental movements. In many Asian countries, the notion of bio-economy has already developed into a political project, with governmental strategies approaching key issues such as food security, energy supply, and overall global competitiveness. For example, as part of the international organic movement, social movements in many Asian countries aim at food sovereignty and (local) sustainable agriculture, social and environmental justice. Beyond that, the consumption of organic food turns into a symbol of an urban-health conscious lifestyle, environmental concerns, and the care for the common good.

This field of tension presents political-economic, environmental and social challenges for Asian countries and their production, utilization and management of natural and biological resources. These processes and the related, rapidly expanding web of relations stimulate a variety of scientific approaches, theoretical concepts and perspectives. Beyond the management of natural resources, the conceptualization of human-nature relationships, values, and connections to individuals’ behavior become a focus of interest. This includes Asian perspectives on human’s alienation from nature, attempts for a reconciliation between human and nature (also in urban settings), and diversified conceptions of nature in traditional knowledge systems across Asia. Taking account of the symbolic-material complexities in Asian conceptions of nature, researchers progressively dissolve the nature/culture divide and the separation between political economy, social ecology, and the study of symbolic forms and practice.

Our panel aims at exploring the rapidly evolving field of entangled natural and social environments in Asia from different perspectives. Both contributions with a comparative approach and case-studies from different Asian countries are most welcomed. We invite contributions on the following (or related) questions:

  • What are dominant ideas about natural environments and their inherent values and beliefs?
  • What ideas about the use or management of natural resources and products exist?
  • What governmental and non-governmental strategies exist, and how do different actors and stakeholders implement them?
  • How can we theorize and conceptualize the social-ecological nexus?

Paper proposal

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