Key Themes in Political Ecology

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Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Political Science and Sociology"

Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Transnational Governance"

Optional for the 4th and 5th year students of the MA Programme in "Political and Social Sciences"


The course aims to address some key issues in current political ecology debates. Political ecology constitutes a dynamic field where a variety of social sciences and humanities are involved, including sociology, anthropology, geography, STS, political theory, feminist and decolonial studies. Shared backdrop is a contestation of apolitical takes on the ecological crisis, which embrace a problem-solving, allegedly value-neutral, approach, eluding the relationship between dominative designs over humans and over nonhumans, political struggles and materiality. The course will address first of all the notion of ecological crisis and the implied contentious onto-epistemic takes, stakes and timescapes. Analysis of some pivotal issues, such as the Anthropocene, extractivism, (re)production, new materialist mobilizations, and anticipatory politics will offer an opportunity to address major strands of thought in Feminist, Marxist, STS and decolonial thinking, and to make sense of current governmentality. The course will be run as a seminar. In the first part of each session the framework will be set by highlighting major aspects and points to be addressed. Subsequently students will present their own accounts of, and reflections on, the issues addressed, building first on the assigned readings and then on the development of the discussion.

Readings in preparation for each session will be uploaded in the course folder:

Students are expected to read them in advance to the corresponding session.


Session 1 – Introduction: Political ecology, crisis and critique. Thursday 9 November 2023, 09:00-13:00

After a presentation of the course and an overview of organizational issues, the session will be devoted to addressing the field of political ecology, with a specific focus on the notions of crisis and critique as key to defining and delimiting such field, and on their most valuable declensions for addressing the current state of affairs.


  • Koselleck, R., Richter M (2006) Crisis. Journal of the History of Ideas, 67(2): 357-400
  • Horkheimer, M. (2002) Traditional and critical theory, in: Critical theory. Selected essays. New York: Continuum.
  • Foucault, M. (2007) What is critique?, in: The Politics of Truth, Los Angeles: Semiotexte
  • Batterbury, S. (2015) Doing political ecology inside and outside the academy, in: R. Bryant (ed.) International Handbook of Political Ecology, Cheltenham: Elgar.
  • Leff, E. (2015) Political ecology: a Latin American perspective. Desenvolvimento e Meio Ambiente, 35(Dec.): 29-64.


Session 2 – Capitalism, production, reproduction and work. Thursday 16 Novembre 2023, 09:00-13:00

The second session will be dedicated to the question of production and reproduction as key to tackling the relationship between capitalism and the biophysical world. A focus will be on current Marxist perspectives, as well as on feminist and decolonial ones, and attention will be devoted to the most recent evolution of capitalism’s approach to materiality, as exemplified by the economy of ecosystem services. The issues of work and value, of their relationship and their recent evolution, will enter such discussion.


  • Acosta, A. (2013) Extractivism and neo-extractivism: two sides of the same curse, in: M. Lang, D. Mokrani (eds.), Beyond development: alternative visions from Latin America. Quito: Rosa Luxemburg Foudation.
  • Boyd, W. et al. (2001) Industrial dynamics and the problem of nature. Society & Natural Resources, 14(7): 555-570.
  • Ferdinand, M. (2022) Prologue: a colonial and environmental double fracture, in Decolonial ecology. Cambridge: Polity
  • Fraser, N. (2014) Behind Marx’s hidden abode. For an expanded conception of capitalism. New Left Review 86: 55-72
  • Leonardi, E. (2019) Bringing class analysis back in: assessing the transformation of the value-nature nexus to strengthen the connection between degrowth and environmental justice. Ecological Economics, 156: 83-90.
  • Pellizzoni, L. (2021) Commodifying the planet? Beyond the economy of ecosystem services. Stato e Mercato, 121: 23-50.


Session 3 – Ontological turn and ontological politics. Thursday 23 November 2023, 09:00-13:00

The third session will be focused on the so-called ‘ontological turn’ in the social sciences and humanities, accounting for its reasons and features. Building on the discussion carried out in the previous session a focus will be on the relationship between new ontologies and late capitalism. Discussion will address as well so-called ‘new materialist’ struggles.


  • Coole, D., Frost, S. (2010) Introducing the new materialisms, in: Id. (eds.) New Materialisms. Durham: Duke UP.
  • Heywood, P. (2023) Ontological turn, in: F. Stein (ed.) Open Encyclopedia of Anthropology (online).
  • Mol, A. (1999) Ontological politics. A word and some questions, in: J. Law, J. Hassard (eds.) Actor-network theory and after. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Pellizzoni, L. (2011) Governing through disorder: neoliberal environmental governance and social theory. Global Environmental Change, 21: 795-803.
  • Schlosberg, D. (2019) From postmaterialism to sustainable materialism: the environmental politics of practice-based movements. Environmental Politics,
  • Schlosberg, D., Coles, A. (2016) New environmentalism of everyday life: sustainability, material flows and movements. Contemporary Political Theory, 15(2): 160-181.


Session 4 – Anthropocene, Gaia and limits. Thursday 30 November 2023, 09:00-13:00

The fourth session will focus on the issue of the Anthropocene and related diatribes in the social sciences, also in connection with Gaia and ‘geopower’ narratives. The evolution and political implications of the notion of limits will also be addressed.


  • Aronowsky, L. (2021) Gas guzzling Gaia, or: a prehistory of climate change denialism. Critical Inquiry, 47: 306-327.
  • Blok, A., Jensen, C.B. (2019) The Anthropocene event in social theory: on ways of problematizing nonhuman materiality differently. Sociological Review, 67(6): 1195-1211.
  • Bonneuil, C. (2015) The geological turn. Narratives of the Anthropocene, in C. Hamilton, C. Bonneuil, F. Gemenne (eds.) The Anthropocene and the global environmental crisis. London: Routledge.
  • Chakrabarty, D. (2015) The human condition in the Anthropocene. Tanner lectures in human values, Yale University, Feb, 18-19.
  • Latour, B. (2017) Why Gaia is not a god of totality. Theory Culture & Society, 34(2-3): 61-81.
  • Luisetti, F. (2019) Geopower: on the states of nature of late capitalism. European Journal of Social Theory, 22(3): 342-363.
  • Wainwright, J., Mann, G. (2013) Climate Leviathan. Antipode, 45(1): 1-22.


Session 5 – The politics of time: expectations, anticipations and apocalypse. Tuesday 5 December 2023, 14:00-18:00

The fifth session will deal with the political use of time. The variety of anticipatory techniques developed over the course of modernity will be addressed with particular attention to the most recent ones, as related to the evolution of governmental strategies, and to the role played therein by eschatology and apocalypticism, also with reference to social mobilizations.


  • Cassegard, C., Thorn, H. (2018) Toward a postapocalyptic environmentalism? Responses to loss and visions of the future in climate activism. Environment and Planning E. Nature and Space, 1(4): 561-578.
  • Cooper, M., Walker, J. (2011) Genealogies of resilience: from systems ecology to the political economy of crisis adaptation. Security Dialogue, 42(2): 143-160.
  • Davidson, J. (2023) Two cheers for collapse? On the uses and abuses of the societal collapse thesis for imagining Anthropocene futures. Environmental Politics, 32(6): 969-987.
  • De Moor, J. (2022) Postapocalyptic narratives in climate activism: their place and impact in five European countries. Environmental Politics, 31(6): 927-948.
  • Massumi, B. (2007) Potential politics and the primacy of preemption. Theory & Event, 10(2)
  • Pellizzoni, L. (2020) The environmental state beyond preemption and inoperosity. Environmental Politics, 29(1): 76-95.
  • Pellizzoni, L. (2020) The time of emergency. On the governmental logic of preparedness. AIS Journal of Sociology, 16: 39-54.

Obiettivi formativi

Basic purpose of the course is to provide students with an ability to critically engage with core issues in the ecological crisis and with cutting-edge social science debates at the cross-roads of different disciplinary and intellectual strands.


 PhD students will be evaluated based on their active participation in class, and the instructor will determine whether they have passed or failed the course. PhD students who opt to write a term paper for this course should consult the instructor in advance and agree on a topic.

 Master students will be evaluated according to their active participation in class (50%) and to a final paper of 2000-3000 words on one of the topics covered during the course (50%). The instructor is available for consultation on the topic of the paper and for advice on its structure and content. The final grade will be expressed on a 30-point scale. The paper can be written in English or Italian and must be delivered by January 31th, 2024.


Riferimenti bibliografici

See syllabus.