In the first part of this theme we endorse how objects are generated in scholarly and managerial interaction and how they are subsequently managed.
The “object” part of "managing objects"
Key questions here: What are the objects of environmental management? How are environmental entities construed as objects in practice as well as theory?
Does the natural environment (both animate and inanimate) consist of passive matter? Or is it lively, vibrant and vital (Dobson 2011)? What are the implications of perceiving things as passive objects?
Bennett (2004: 351) argues that to encounter an assemblage of things as a “mise-en-scène rather than as trash is to glimpse a culture of things irreducible to the culture of objects. It is to become better able ‘to be surprised by what we see.’” When we make assumptions, reduce things to objects, and thus deny their “thing-power” (ibid.), we lose the capacity to observe, encounter these things. We are unable to learn how things function, what they are and how they interact. Bennett quotes De Landa, who emphasises the “power of nonhuman materiality to ‘self-organize’” (Bennett after De Landa, ibid.). De Landa refers for instance to tsunamis, arguing that “forms of spontaneous structural generation suggest that inorganic matter is much more variable and creative than we ever imagined. And this insight into matter’s inherent creativity needs to be fully incorporated into our new materialist philosophies” (de Landa 1997: 16). A human-centred philosophy as the basis for environmental management wrongly assumes that what we are able to perceive (e.g. through the observation of simple cause-effect relations) is the object itself. We lack the understanding that things are more complex, and not linear as a “same cause, same effect, always”- approach suggests (de Landa 2006: 100). Especially when the “always” part becomes statistical because of other, interfering events: The effect only occurs in so and so many per cent of the causes. Identifying the interfering events makes the picture more complex, however, the object status remains as complex matter is reduced to cause-effect relations.
Both Latour (2004) and Haraway (1992) aim to overcome the human-nature divide and in particular our granting of agency to only humans that makes it so difficult to understand “natural events” (Asdal 2003). It is scientific (and then, management) practice that defines objects and in the following determines our ability to deal with the objects we created in the process. Asdal, after Haraway, suggests a greater “openness to difference, that which is not ‘us’” (ibid.: 74).
Nature’s “voice” is often discussed in terms of the question whether “nature speaks”. Vogel (2006), after for instance Habermas: nature cannot engage in dialogue, it cannot speak for itself. Dobson (2010) argues that the problem does not lie in nature having not having the ability to use speech, but in our inability to listen. Quoting Dryzek (2002: 154) Dobson (ibid.) argues, “[n]on-human nature can make equal demands on our capacity to listen”. The foremost aim of discursive democracy does, thus, not lie in the claims that are being made, but in revealing the claims, i.e. to give those a voice who have no speech or are not being listened to. Just as scientific experts, the environmental movement is part of a politics that claims to speak on behalf of nature (Asdal 2003). She comments that by “defining something as nature, we simultaneously also create a space for the expert, the spokesperson, who can speak on nature’s behalf” (ibid. 69). Dobson emphasises this problem of environmentalists to articulate “a politics for the environment that goes even a tiny way beyond thinking of the environment as an object for political consideration rather than as a political subject in its own right” (Dobson 2010: 754). The crucial question is, according to Dobson (ibid.), not only how to make things speak, which is what Latour (2004) argues for, but how to listen.
The “management” part of "managing objects"
How do different actors perceive of the object they manage? Where do their understandings over-lap? What kind of management options are conceptualised? For example, how are these understandings of objects informed by variations on culturally deeply rooted themes (Haraway 1991) and management options delineated by a contingent but powerful aesthetics of environmental problems (Yusoff 2009)? How are objects created in management practice? How are management concepts adjusted during training/practice (see Hinchliffe 2000)? How is certainty generated over the question that practices will reach their goals (cf. notion of management practices as actual real-world experiments, Gross and Hoffmann-Riem 2005; and how to use experimental approaches consciously in order to create innovative practices, Gabrys and Yusoff 2011)? How do we change the objects of our management practice towards our understanding of them (on the co-production of natures during management practice, see Bingham and Hinchliffe 2008; Hinchliffe 2008)? Why do management strategies fail? When does nature’s agency (cf. de Landa on “events”) change science/management practice? The submitted papers will provide the empirical evidence and theoretical input to engage with these questions.
This part of the theme moves on to consider an understanding of environmental management as a ‘socio-natural assemblage’ (Bakker, 2010). As assemblages are structured through ‘critical reflection, debate, and contest’ (Collier, 2006, p. 400) by engaging environmental management, our attempt here is to explore the multiple possibilities of reinventing the politics of nature.
Though every assemblage is basically territorial it may be composed of heterogeneous elements that may be ‘human and non-human, organic and inorganic, technical and natural’ (Anderson & McFarlane, 2011, p. 124). It is a ‘constellation of singularities and traits deduced from the flow – selected, organized and stratified – in such a way as to converge (consistency) artificially and naturally’ (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 406). In other words, as a product of multiple determinations an assemblage is not reducible to a single logic… [it] implies heterogeneous, contingent, unstable, partial and situated’ (Collier & Ong, 2005, p. 12). There are multiple ways in which assemblage is used: as a descriptor, an ethos and a concept (Anderson & McFarlane, 2011). Essentially, it is a sensibility in the discourse of description and analysis (Marcus & Saka, 2006).
Assemblages stand in a ‘dependent but contingent relationship to the grander problematizations’ (Rabinow, 2003, p. 56). Observing an environmental phenomenon as an assemblage, first of all, enable us to recognize society and nature in non-dualistic ways, by embracing a relational ontology (Castree, 2003). Secondly, the relational thinking in assemblages allows us to deal with an another pertinent problem that is encountered when analyzing environmental management: about the whole and the parts. The specific forms of agencies of the parts and the whole, not one or the other, can be descriptively and analytically engaged like other potential dualisms like stability and change, order and disruption etc (McFarlane & Anderson, 2011).
Anderson, B., & McFarlane, C. (2011). Assemblage and geography. Area, 43(2), 124-127. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01004.x
Asdal, Kristin. 2003. "The Problematic Nature of Nature: The Post-constructivist Challenge to Environmental History." History and Theory 42(4):60-74.
Bakker, K. (2010). The limits of “neoliberal natures”: Debating green neoliberalism. Progress in Human Geography, 34(6), 715 -735. doi:10.1177/0309132510376849
Bennett, Jane. 2004. "The Force of Things: Steps toward an Ecology of Matter." Political Theory 32(3):347-72.
Bingham, Nick, and Steve Hinchliffe. 2008. "Reconstituting natures: Articulating other modes of living together." Geoforum 39(1):83-87.
Castree, N. (2003). Environmental issues: relational ontologies and hybrid politics. Progress in Human Geography, 27(2), 203 -211. doi:10.1191/0309132503ph422pr
Collier, S. J. (2006). Global Assemblages. Theory, Culture & Society, 23(2-3), 399 -401. doi:10.1177/026327640602300269
Collier, S. J. (2006). Global Assemblages. Theory, Culture & Society, 23(2-3), 399 -401. doi:10.1177/026327640602300269
Collier, S. J., & Ong, A. (2005). Global Assemblages Anthropological Problems. In A. Ong & S. J. Collier (Eds.), Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems (pp. 3-21). Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9780470696569.ch1/summary
de Landa, Manuel. 1997. A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History. New York: Zone Books/Swerve Editions.
—. 2006. "Events producing events." Domus 889(February):100-01.
Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. (B. Massumi, Trans.) (1st ed.). University of Minnesota Press.
Dobson, Andrew. 2010. "Democracy and Nature: Speaking and Listening." Political Studies 58(4):752-68.
—. 2011. "Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things." Environmental Values 20(3):439-41.
Dryzek, John S. 2002. Deliberative democracy and beyond: liberals, critics, contestations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gabrys, Jennifer, and Kathryn Yusoff. 2011. "Arts, Sciences and Climate Change: Practices and Politics at the Threshold." Science as Culture:1-24.
Gross, Matthias, and Holger Hoffmann-Riem. 2005. "Ecological restoration as a real-world experiment: designing robust implementation strategies in an urban environment." Public Understanding of Science 14(3):269-84.
Haraway, Donna. 1991. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.
—. 1992. "The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others." Pp. 295-337 in Cultural Studies, edited by Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula A Treichler. New York: Routledge.
Hinchliffe, Steve. 2000. "Performance and experimental knowledge: outdoor management training and the end of epistemology." Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 18(5):575-95.
—. 2008. "Reconstituting nature conservation: Towards a careful political ecology." Geoforum 39(1):88-97.
Latour, Bruno. 2004. Politics of Nature. How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Marcus, G. E., & Saka, E. (2006). Assemblage. Theory, Culture & Society, 23(2-3), 101 -106. doi:10.1177/0263276406062573
McFarlane, C., & Anderson, B. (2011). Thinking with assemblage. Area, 43(2), 162-164. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01012.x
Rabinow, P. (2003). Anthropos Today: Reflections on Modern Equipment (1st ed.). Princeton University Press.
Tsing, Anna. 2005. Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton: Printceton University Press.
Vogel, Steven. 2006. "The Silence of Nature." Environmental Values 15(2):145-71.
Yusoff, Kathryn. 2009. "Excess, catastrophe, and climate change." Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 27(6):1010-29.
—. 2010. "Biopolitical Economies and the Political Aesthetics of Climate Change." Theory, Culture & Society 27(2):73-99.
- 1. "Re-cognizing Tsunamis: The Cosmopolitics of Tsunami Warning Systems (and Failures)." Workshop "How do you manage? Unravelling the situated practice of environmental management", 2012.
- 2. "Protected Area Management and Pertinent Knowledge: What does Management Mean and Which Knowledge is Pertinent? A case study in the Colombian Amazon." Workshop "How do you manage? Unravelling the situated practice of environmental management", 2012.
- 3. "Wildlife management in practice. The case of the preys-predator programme in the Mercantour national park." Workshop "How do you manage? Unravelling the situated practice of environmental management", 2012.
- 4. "Unpacking nonhuman environments: the role of migratory birds in Donana's Environmental Disaster." Workshop "How do you manage? Unravelling the situated practice of environmental management", 2012.
- 5. "Assembling mosquito nets, managing malaria." Workshop "How do you manage? Unravelling the situated practice of environmental management", 2012.