Discursive and Material Productions of Nature by Jason Douglas

Over the last forty years, issues of environmental conflict have become increasingly recognized by academics and society more broadly. From the inequitable distribution of green space in Los Angeles, California (Wolch et al., 2005), to the historical disenfranchisement of the Jamaican small farming class from the forest resources that are critical to their everyday livelihoods (Douglas, 2013), it has become apparent that the relationships between people, nature, and power manifest numerous contradictions. Neoliberal practices arguably have been tailored to appropriate nature as a medium for profit (Castree, 2003) and the production of social difference (Escobar, 2006) throughout the industrial era. The sites, politics, and practices of environmental conflict are considered to be fundamental issues of environmental justice, which is one of the most controversial lines of study in the social sciences (Byrne et al., 2002). As such, this reading list presents literature stemming from political ecology and environmental justice studies that critique environmental conflict through the lens of people’s material and discursive productions of nature; that is, the ways by which people form their nuanced understandings of nature and society.

The readings in this list will be of interest to a broad audience, from environmental justice policy advocates and organizers to aspiring and established academics interested in pursuing studies of people, nature, and power. Neil Smith’s contributions (2007, 2008) lay the groundwork for understanding people’s material productions of nature while Arturo Escobar (1996) and David Demeritt (2002) provide an understanding of people’s discursive constructions of nature. I recommend that all readers begin with these authors to develop a theoretical understanding of the material and discursive productions of nature that the broader reading list is concerned with. Regardless of where you begin, I hope that the readings in this living and growing list will provide a new and evolving mode of thought concerning people, nature, and power.

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