Epistemological Idioms

My research is embedded in political ecology. Though no one can agree on an exact definition, suffice it to say that it’s an outgrowth of geography that focuses on human-environment interactions with specific emphasis on the role of power. It’s a field that is deeply academic and there’s nothing like a week of political ecology discussions to send your head spinning. Also, as the field is new, we like to create terms to help define a disciplinary jargon. In addition, the field’s methodology relies on discourse analysis and units of analysis defined by epistemic communities. Therefore at the recent annual meeting of the Annual Association of Geographers, I spent more time than I was willing thinking about word usage and incorporating some new ones into my syntax.

My favorite quote:

“given it’s mainly men climbing, I’d be interested in starting a rumor that it decreases virility but I thought it would be unethical to start a rumor” on feeling the need to help the Australian aboriginal group, the Anangu people, in keeping climbers off their sacred rock formation (Uluru/Ayer’s Rock)

But read on for my collection of a few gems from my colleagues…


Highlights from a week of political ecology thinking:

“the long route is a viable one”

“ignoring power is bizarre” relating to studies of human-environment interactions

“just telling people with wealth and power to give some of it up hasn’t worked”

“fetishization of the lawn” and “mote of grass”

“we have to change the world in three to five years” on conditionality of academic engagement and the funding cycle

“phytosanitary problem”

“it is not allowed to exist in the fields because it is a quarantined substance” on a tomato virus carried by whiteflies that has invaded France, against French bioinvasion legislation

“resilience is another one of those ideas or myths”

“in-the-middle complexity” on ideal study systems

“risk regimes”

“allows them to agree on one version of the truth”

“it’s not a seminal paper, it’s uterine”


“I see political ecology as a trojan horse within mainstream ecology to help weave in elements of equity and justice”

“friendly enemity”

“as living, breathing members of this planet we are all a little insurgent”

“cultivating manly men” from an issue of Rod and Gun in the 1950’s describing recreational angling

“The Goracle”

“there is pleasure in speaking truth to power”

~Bluegrass Blue Crab