CfP Pollen 2018: From performativity to hybridization: exploring theory-practice entanglements in (so-called) market-based environmental initiatives

CfP POLLEN 2018:


From performativity to hybridization: exploring theory-practice entanglements in (so-called) market-based environmental initiatives

POLLEN18: Political Ecology, the Green Economy, and Alternative Sustainabilities

Oslo, Norway

June 20-22, 2018


ABSTRACT DEADLINE: December 6, 2017

Session organizers: Catherine Windey (University of Antwerp), Vijay Kolinjivadi (Université du Québec en Outaouais), Gert Van Hecken (University of Antwerp), and Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza (Duke University)


Over the last two decades, market-based instruments (MBIs) for nature conservation have become increasingly prominent in environmental and development policy discourse as a so-called win-win solution. While there is no consensual definition of MBIs and they encompasses heterogeneous types of programmes that do not always use markets in their conception and implementation, a utilitarian rationale and the use of financial incentives remain central elements of their design (Pirard, 2012). Therefore, beyond the material outcomes of MBIs and regardless of actual commodification or marketization processes taking place, much of the critical scholarship on MBIs denounces this overarching rationale as part of a hegemonic neoliberal governmentality that primarily serves the capitalist agenda. Accordingly, this form of environmental management would lead to a detrimental modification of socio-ecological relations through the promotion of productivist/individualistic socio-cultural attitudes towards the environment at the cost of more intrinsic motivations (e.g. Brockington and Duffy, 2010; Büscher et al., 2012; Castree, 2003; Corbera, 2012; Fletcher and Büscher, 2017; McAfee, 2012; Sullivan, 2006; Van Hecken and Bastiaensen, 2010). At the same time, an increasing number of empirical studies have also shown precisely how these dominant narratives behind MBIs are constructed, contested and (re)negotiated at multiple levels (e.g. Benjaminsen, 2014; Büscher, 2014; den Besten et al., 2013; Evans et al., 2014; Leggett and Lovell, 2012; McElwee, 2014; Milne and Adams, 2012; Pasgaard, 2015; Shapiro-Garza, 2013a, 2013b; Van Hecken et al. 2015a). In fact, these models do not necessarily unfold on the ground as intended and rather result in a hybridization between different worldviews, everyday practices and ways of valuing ‘nature’ through actors’ agency and power relationships (Cleaver, 2012; Van Hecken et al., 2015b).

While it is important to critically examine the ideologies and power structures underlying MBIs along with micro scale analysis (e.g. Fletcher & Büscher, 2017), we argue that these debates often remain somewhat trapped within binary frames between the ‘global’ and the ‘local’, ‘market’ and ‘no market’, ‘capitalist’ and ‘non-capitalist’, ‘resistance’ and ‘consent’, that still convey the idea of an imposition of the global neoliberal/capitalist economy to powerless non-capitalist local communities and agents (Gibson-Graham, 2002; Hart, 2006). Individual agents and communities hence appear as a “site of economic impact and never as a constituent of the economic” (St Martin, 2006: 182) which conveys the idea that there is an a priori structural power, i.e. neoliberalism, and an a posteriori agency/actor that is always the site of its hegemonic impact. Through this lens, the tendency is to dismiss theory-practice entanglements and various human-nature relationalities and discursive formations that continuously emerge, but which fall outside of these dialectic ontologies, hence paradoxically risking reinforcing a neoliberal performative act “that limits our political imaginations and sense of agency” (Burke and Shear, 2014: 129; Kolinjivadi et al., 2017). Crucially, these outcomes are not framed as alternatives in response to an imposition by the hegemonic tendencies of neoliberalism or a capitalist economy. Instead, they emerge as theory-practice entanglements, consciously or unconsciously, in relation to a muddle of ideologies, social norms, power relations, actors’ agencies, path dependencies and geographic scales (Van Hecken et al., 2017).

To further challenge conventional discursive polarizations and to enlighten and rethink diverse identities and practices (Gibson-Graham, 2002), we believe that the analysis of how so-called MBIs are formed and then enact, are (re)informed and contested in interaction with hybrid socio-ecological configurations is a crucial area of exploration. In other words, examining these programmes in praxis requires a stronger relational understanding of humans-in-nature and nature-in-humanity in order to ground MBI design and implementation within historical and often unruly geographical conditions. We are therefore interested in bringing together a collection of presentations that look at the dynamic processes of MBIs’ (re)configuration that can potentially shape the formation of a new episteme. We thus invite conceptual, theoretical and empirical contributions that consider but are not limited to the topics below:

– ‘Politics of knowledge’: performativity of policy and academic discourses on MBIs; theory-practice entanglements; how discourses are constructed and translated into practice;

– Diverse and historically-situated values, institutions, agencies, knowledge practices, skills and traditions related to natural resources management and how they interact with MBIs’ as narrative and practice;

– Dynamics of power (e.g. ‘power-knowledge’, access and use of natural resources, etc.), role of the State and unruly green governmentalities  surrounding MBIs;

– Going beyond capital-logics as imposed from above: contingent human-nature histories as debunking neoliberalism’s so-called “success”.

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words to before 6 December 2017. Feel free to contact us should you have any questions or ideas about this session. If accepted to this paper session, applicants will still need to register through the POLLEN website.



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Brockington, D., and Duffy, R. 2010. Capitalism and Conservation: The Production and Reproduction of Biodiversity Conservation. Antipode 42(3), 469-484.

Büscher, B. 2012. Payments for ecosystem services as neoliberal conservation: (Reinterpreting) evidence from the Maloti-Drakensberg, South Africa. Conservation & Society, 10, 29-41.

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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. DOI: 10.1177/0309132517735707.

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McAfee, K. & Shapiro, E. N. 2010. Payments for Ecosystem Services in Mexico: Nature, Neoliberalism, Social Movements, and the State. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 100, 579-599.

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, B. 2012. Market Masquerades: Uncovering the Politics of Community-level Payments for Environmental Services in Cambodia. Development and Change, 43, 133-158.

Pasgaard, M. (2015). Lost in translation? How project actors shape REDD+ policy and outcomes in Cambodia. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 56(1), 111-127.

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.

St Martin, K. 2006. The impact of “community” on fisheries management in the US Northeast. Geoforum, 37, 169-184.

Sullivan, S., 2006. Elephant in the room? Problematising ‘new’ (neoliberal) biodiversity conservation. Forum for Development Studies 33(1), 105-135.

Van Hecken, G. & Bastiaensen, J. 2010. Payments for Ecosystem Services in Nicaragua: Do Market-based Approaches Work? Development and Change, 41, 421-444.

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

Van Hecken, G., Bastiaensen, J. & Windey, C. 2015b. 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., Kolinjivadi, V., Windey, C., McElwee, P., Shapiro-Garza, E., Huybrechs, F., & Bastiaensen, J., 2017. Silencing Agency in Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) by Essentializing a Neoliberal ‘Monster’ Into Being: A Response to Fletcher & Büscher’s ‘PES Conceit’. Forthcoming in Ecological Economics. doi: