Special Section: Power in Political Ecology

Political ecologies of biopower: diversity, debates, and new frontiers of inquiry



This article reviews recent literature on the political ecologies of conservation and environmental change mitigation, highlighting the biopolitical stakes of many writings in this field. Although a large and apparently growing number of political ecologists engage the concept of biopower directly – in its Foucauldian, Agambenian, and various other formulations – recent writings across the humanities and social sciences by scholars utilizing an explicitly biopolitical lens provide us with an array of concepts and research questions that may further enrich writings within political ecology. Seeking to extend dialogue between scholars of biopolitics, of political ecology, and of both, then, this article surveys both new and shifting contours of the various ways in which contemporary political ecologies increasingly compel us to bring the very lives of various human and nonhuman populations, as Foucault once put it, "into the realm of explicit calculations." In doing so, 'new frontiers' of biopolitical inquiry are examined related to: i) species, varieties, or 'multiple modes' of governmentality and biopower; ii) critical (ecosystem) infrastructure, risk, and 'reflexive' biopolitics; iii) environmental history, colonialism, and the genealogies of biopower, and iv) the proliferation of related neologisms, such as ontopower and geontopower.

Keywords: political ecology, biopower, conservation, environmental change, Foucault

How to Cite: Cavanagh, C. J. (2018) “Political ecologies of biopower: diversity, debates, and new frontiers of inquiry”, Journal of Political Ecology. 25(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/v25i1.23047