| By Anthony Bebbington | Published by Geoforum 43(6): 1152-1162 | Reprinted in German in 2013, in Peripherie 132: 402-424 (Berlin) |
Abstract: Based on the 2011 Annual Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group Lecture, this paper makes the case for a political ecology of the subsoil. Arguing that subsoil resources have received comparatively little attention within the wider corpus of political ecological writing, the paper explores several ways in which the extraction of mineral and hydrocarbon resources is constitutive of, and constituted by, wider capitalist political, economic and institutional arrangements. Drawing on material from El Salvador and the Andean countries, the paper explores the contemporary governance of extractive industries, and points to significant convergence among the approaches taken by neoliberal and ostensibly post-neoliberal regimes alike. The intersections between the extractive economy, livelihoods and patterns of social protest are also explored. Through these examples, the paper also highlights the ways in which “activist political ecologists” play important roles in counter-movements seeking to re-govern the extractive economy. These countermovements are found in both civil society and different parts of the state. Such activist political ecologists are central to the broader enterprise of an “underground political ecology” and are often vital to the success of scholarly interventions in such political ecologies.