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Transforming Participatory Science into Socioecological Praxis: Valuing Marginalized Environmental Knowledges in the Face of the Neoliberalization of Nature and Science

October 22, 2014 Comments off

Over the last several years I’ve worked with the Coweeta Listening Project (CLP) which is an ethnographically oriented action-research collective trying to better integrate social science within the Coweeta Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Project.  Especially important has been work inspired through conversations with my colleague Brian Burke who initially came in as a postdoc to the CLP and through his efforts allowed us to drastically expand the project.  This week a paper Brian and I wrote for a special issue of Environment and Society titled “Transforming Participatory Science into Socioecological Praxis Valuing Marginalized Environmental Knowledges in the Face of the Neoliberalization of Nature and Science” has been published.

Burke, B.J. and N. Heynen (2014) “Transforming Participatory Science into Socio-Ecological Praxis: Valuing Marginalized Environmental Knowledges in the Face of the Neoliberalization of Nature and Science.’ Environment and Society. 5: 7–27

ABSTRACT: Citizen science and sustainability science promise the more just and democratic
production of environmental knowledge and politics. In this review, we evaluate
these participatory traditions within the context of (a) our theorization of how the
valuation and devaluation of nature, knowledge, and people help to produce socioecological
hierarchies, the uneven distribution of harms and benefi ts, and inequitable
engagement within environmental politics, and (b) our analysis of how neoliberalism is
reworking science and environmental governance. We fi nd that citizen and sustainability
science oft en fall short of their transformative potential because they do not directly
confront the production of environmental injustice and political exclusion, including
the knowledge hierarchies that shape how the environment is understood and acted
upon, by whom, and for what ends. To deepen participatory practice, we propose a
heterodox ethicopolitical praxis based in Gramscian, feminist, and postcolonial theory
and describe how we have pursued transformative praxis in southern Appalachia
through the Coweeta Listening Project.
KEYWORDS: citizen science, democratization, Gramsci, participation, science studies,
sustainability science