Panel 02 (Keilbart, Christensen)

Land, Sand, Water and “in-between’s” – Political Ecology and the Anthropocene in Southeast Asia

Panel organizers

Dr. Patrick Keilbart (Goethe University Frankfurt a. M.)
Dr. Paul Christensen (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)



Panel abstract

Highlighted by recent calls for a Green New Deal and Degrowth, sustainable development, maintenance of biodiversity, and intergenerational equity in access to environmental resources are now accepted as worthy ideals in the capitalist world-ecology. This is also apparent in Southeast Asia, where new voices and arenas of resistance and responses to dominant forces emerge, and environmentalism has become a legitimizing discourse of opposition (beginning from the late 1980s). With rapid and fundamental environmental and political-economic change, Southeast Asia suggests itself to use environment as a window on wider aspects of societal dynamics, and to analyze the extent to which different groups are benefiting or suffering from the rapid changes affecting each society and country in the region.

This field of tension presents political-economic, environmental, and social challenges for Southeast 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 Southeast 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 the region.

Political Ecology approaches environmental issues by focusing on power relations as well as the coproduction of nature and society. This means investigating the reflexive relationship between environmental conditions, discourses, and activism on the one hand and changing economic, social, and political relations on the other. A central aim is to dismantle false boundaries of ‘the social’ and ‘the natural’. Similarly, contemporary Anthropocene research puts a focus on entanglements between differently defined ‘natures’ and ‘cultures’. The emphasis on interrelations in the context of nature-cultures creates a space for thought with promising reference points for investigating human-nature-relations.

Our panel aims at exploring the rapidly evolving field of entangled natural and social environments in Southeast Asia from different angles, including (but not limited to) Political Ecology and Anthropocene perspectives. Both contributions with a comparative approach and case-studies from different 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) and what ideas about the use or management of natural resources and products exist?

What different modes of environmentalism can be found in Southeast Asia, and how can scholars disentangle institutional, political, social and material bases for environmentalism? How can we theorize and conceptualize the social-ecological nexus, combining Political Ecology and Anthropocene (and other) perspectives?

Paper submission

If you want to participate in this panel, please submit your paper proposal here.

Anything else we need to know?
By submitting the above panel proposal I authorise the German Association for Asian Studies (DGA) and the conference organisers to store, process and publish my personal data collected in the above paper proposal form for the purpose of preparing, organising and documenting the German Association for Asian Studies’ (DGA) biannual Conference on Contemporary Asia 2023 (“the conference”) and as far as necessary for the fulfilment of the statuary purpose of the association (§ 2 DGA statutes).
At the same time I agree that my participation in the conference may be recorded audio-visually and that this material may be published within the context of reporting on the conference in printed materials as well as online.
The DGA and the conference organisers will store and process all personal data in accordance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation.