CfP: Entangled Neoliberal Natures

Entangled Neoliberal Natures:

Payments for Ecosystem Services as Sites of Contestation, Hybridization and Transformation


Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG)

New Orleans, Louisiana

April 10-14, 2018


Session Organizers: Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza (Duke University), Gert Van Hecken (University of Antwerp), Pamela McElwee (Rutgers University), and Esteve Corbera (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

The concept of payments for ecosystem services (PES), through which financial incentives are provided to landowners for management practices thought to produce environmental benefits (i.e. carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, or cleaner and/or greater quantities of water downstream), initially emerged in the late 1980s and have since become a ubiquitous approach to environmental conservation. As a market-based environmental approach based on a neoclassical economic model intended to increase both the efficiency and effectiveness of environmental initiatives through voluntary, direct, market-like agreements between users and providers of environmental services (Wunder 2005), the PES approach matched well with and was bolstered by the neoliberal ideology that was then on the ascendency (Engel et al., 2008; Gomez-Baggethun et al. 2010, Norgaard 2010).

Accordingly, much of the critical scholarship on PES has been based on the framework of “neoliberal natures” (Heynen et al. 2007), with claims that imposing the structure of market logics and capitalist rationales on the conservation of nature is akin to allowing the lion to guard the lamb (Sullivan 2009; Norgaard 2010; McAfee 2012; Fletcher and Buscher 2017). However, although the original neoclassical economic model of PES largely continues to be upheld as the ideal by those who promote and fund PES, from multilateral lending institutions to international environmental NGOs, few if any initiatives conform to its constructs (Muradian et al. 2010; Kolinjivadi et al., 2017; Kosoy and Corbera 2010; Vatn 2010; Pirard 2012; Singh 2015; Van Hecken et al. 2015a). However, more recent, empirically grounded studies that both build on and push back against this body of critique, have explored these initiatives as “actually-existing neoliberalisms” (Bakker 2010, p 720), describing the nuanced processes through which the structure of neoliberal ideology at the foundation of PES is contested, transformed and hybridized through the agency of actors in the sites of implementation, from states, to social movements, to agrarian smallholders (McElwee 2012; Mahanty et al. 2012; Milne 2012; Shapiro-Garza 2013a; Shapiro-Garza 2013b; McElwee et al. 2014; Bétrisey and Mager 2015; Van Hecken et al. 2015b; vonHedeman and Osborne 2016; Kolinjivadi et al. 2016; Almeida-Leñero et al. 2017; Osborne and Shapiro-Garza 2017).

We are interested bringing together a collection of empirically grounded, theoretically informed presentations that explore the many ways in which the neoclassicial economic assumptions of a model of PES are or are not contested, hybridized and/or transformed by the grounded political, economic, socio-cultural dynamics of the sites of implementation. Some of the themes we are interested in exploring include the ways in which the following factors work to entangle the neoliberal logics of these initiatives to, successfully or not, through:

●      Historical trajectories in the sites of implementation that run counter to neoliberal constructs;

●      Alternative values held for the socio-natural systems;

●      Dynamics of power and inequality;

●      Institutional structures and constructs.

We are also interested in papers that include a more explicit discussion of the methods or theoretical frameworks that allow for the study of these processes.

Please send a title and an abstract of no more than 250 words by October 20, 2018 to Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza (elizabeth[dot]shapiro[at] Feel free to contact us in advance with preliminary interests, ideas and questions about these sessions.



Almeida-Leñero, L., Revollo-Fernández, D., Caro-Borrero, A., Ruiz-Mallén, I., Corbera, E., Mazari-Hiriart, M. And Figueroa, F., 2017. Not the same for everyone: Community views of Mexico’s payment for environmental services programmes. Environmental Conservation, pp.1-11.

Bétrisey F., Mager, C., 2015. Les paiements pour services environnementaux de la Fondation Natura Bolivia entre logiques réciprocitaires, redistributives et marchandes. Revue Française de Socio-Economie 2015/1(15), 39-58.

Fletcher, R., Büscher, B., 2017. The PES Conceit: Revisiting the Relationship between Payments for Environmental Services and Neoliberal Conservation. Ecological Economics 132, 224-23

Heynen, N., McCarthy, J., Robbins, P., Prudham, S. (Eds.), 2007. Neoliberal Environments: False Promises and Unnatural Consequences. Routledge, New York.

Kolinjivadi, V., Charré, S., Adamowski, J., Kosoy, N., 2016. Economic Experiments for Collective Action in the Kyrgyz Republic: Lessons for Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES). Ecological Economics.

Kolinjivadi, V., Van Hecken, G., Vela Almeida, D., Kosoy, N., Dupras, J., 2017. Neoliberal performatives and the “making” of payments for ecosystem services (PES). forthcoming in Progress in Human Geography.

Mahanty, S., Milne, S., Dressler, W., Filer, C., 2012. The social life of forest carbon: property and politics in the production of a new commodity. Human Ecology 40(5), 661-664.

McAfee, K., 2012. The Contradictory Logic of Global Ecosystem Services Markets. Development and Change 43, 105-131.

McElwee, P.D., 2012. Payments for environmental services as neoliberal market-based forest conservation in Vietnam: Panacea or problem?. Geoforum, 43(3), pp.412-426.

McElwee, P., Nghiem, T., Le, H., Vu, H., Tran, N., 2014. Payments for environmental services and contested neoliberalisation in developing countries: A case study from Vietnam. Journal of Rural Studies 36, 423-440.

Milne, S., Adams, W.M., 2012. Market masquerades: uncoveing the politics of community-level payments for environmental services in Cambodia. Development and Change 43, 133–158.

Muradian, R., Corbera, E., Pascual, U., Kosoy, N., May, P.H., 2010. Reconciling theory and practice: An alternative conceptual framework for understanding payments for environmental services. Ecological Economics 69, 1202-1208.

Osborne, T., Shapiro-Garza, E., 2017. Embedding carbon markets: Complicating commodification of ecosystem services in Mexico’s forests. Annals of the Association of American Geographers.

Pirard, R., 2012. Market-based instruments for biodiversity and ecosystem services: A lexicon. Environmental Science and Policy 19-20, 59-68.

Shapiro-Garza, E., 2013a. Contesting the market-based nature of Mexico’s national payments for ecosystem services programs: Four sites of articulation and hybridization. Geoforum 46, 5-15.

Shapiro-Garza, E., 2013b. Contesting market-based conservation: Payments for ecosystem services as a surface of engagement for rural social movements in Mexico. Human Geography 6(1), 134-150.

Singh, N.M., 2015. Payments for ecosystem services and the gift paradigm: Sharing the burden and joy of environmental care. Ecological Economics 117, 53-61.

Tacconi, L., 2012. Redefining payments for environmental services. Ecological Economics 73, 29-36.

Van Hecken, G., Bastiaensen, J., Windey, C., 2015a. Towards a power-sensitive and socially-informed analysis of payments for ecosystem services (PES): Addressing the gaps in the current debate. Ecological Economics 120, 117-125.

Van Hecken, G., Bastiaensen, J., Huybrechs, F., 2015b. What’s in a name? Epistemic perspectives and Payments for Ecosystem Services policies in Nicaragua. Geoforum 63, 55-66.

Vatn, A., 2010. An institutional analysis of payments for environmental services. Ecological Econimics 69 (6), 1245–1252.

vonHedemann, N. and Osborne, T. 2016. State Forestry Incentives and Community Stewardship: A Political Ecology of Payments and Compensation for Ecosystem Services in Guatemala’s Highlands. Journal of Latin American Geography, 15(1), 83-110.

Wunder, S., 2005. Payments for environmental services: some nuts and bolts, Occasional Paper No. 42. Bogor, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).