Political Ecology

Political Ecology Research Group - team photo 2020
Political Ecology Research Group

The Political Ecology research group investigates the ways in which resource scarcities are created and contested, particularly in contexts of unequal access, poverty and social exclusion.

Within the framework of climate change and environmental, food and energy crises, the emergence of new hubs of global capital, and demographic transitions, the group pays particular attention to how agrarian, food and environmental policies shape the political economy of rural areas and their social policies, population and gender dynamics.

      This translates to the group’s interrelated concerns in:

      • land, water, food, energy, biodiversity and extractive industries; processes of generational transition, in relation to children and youth;
      • changing forms of poverty, vulnerability and exclusion (amongst others from a gender perspective) in the context of population transitions such as migration and urbanization; and
      • recent initiatives around popular alternatives such as food sovereignty and agro-ecology.

        Interdisciplinary, critical and policy-relevant

        The group is interdisciplinary, critical and policy-relevant: it builds on insights from economics, sociology, politics, anthropology and geography to construct a critical political economy approach to study the relationship between resources, environment and population dynamics, and how these fit into processes of and policies for socioeconomic development and structural transformation.


        The distinguishing feature of the research group is a critical political economy approach that looks at population and economic transitions that have emerged from changes in agriculture and rural areas. It examines the changing nature of access to resources, environmental degradation, poverty dynamics, vulnerability, exclusion, and social/gender differentiation in these transitions.

        For example, these include looking at why young people do not want to farm anymore, the shift in gender power relations in the land rights disputes, the impact of migration to urban areas, and the issue of ‘surplus population’.