Political ecology and decolonial research: co-production with the Iñupiat in Utqiaġvik

Authors: , , , , ,


Environmental social science research designs have shifted over the past several decades to include an increased commitment to multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinary team-based work that have had dual but complementary foci. These address power and equity in the substantive aspects of research, and also to adopt more engaged forms of practice, including decolonial approaches. The fields of political ecology, human geography, and environmental anthropology have been especially open to converge with indigenous scholarship, particularly decolonial and settler colonial theories and research designs, within dominant human-environmental social science paradigms. Scholars at the forefront of this dialogue highlight the ontological (ways of knowing), epistemological (how we know), and institutional (institutions of higher education) transformations that need to occur in order for this to take place. In this article we contribute to this literature in two ways. First, we highlight the synergies between political ecology and decolonial scholarship, particularly focusing on the power dynamics in research programs and historical legacies of human-environmental relationships, including those of researchers. Second, we explore how decolonial research pushes political ecologists and other environmental social scientists to not only consider adopting international and local standards of working with, by and for Indigenous Peoples within research programs but how this work ultimately extends to research and education within their home institutions and organizations. Through integrating decolonized research practices in the environmental social sciences, we argue that synthesizing multiple knowledge practices and transforming institutional structures will enhance team-based environmental social science work to improve collaboration with Indigenous scientists, subsistence practitioners, agency representatives, and sovereign members of Indigenous communities.

Keywords: Iñupiaq Peoples, Indigenous Knowledges, decolonial, co-production, collaboration, Alaska

How to Cite: Zanotti, L. , Carothers, C. , Apok, C. A. , Huang, S. , Coleman, J. & Ambrozek, C. (2020) “Political ecology and decolonial research: co-production with the Iñupiat in Utqiaġvik”, Journal of Political Ecology. 27(1). doi: