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Call for Papers: Harder, Faster, Deeper, Stronger: Ecological Restructuring and the Primary Sector

October 21, 2014

Harder, Faster, Deeper, Stronger: Ecological Restructuring and the Primary Sector

A call for papers for a session at the Annual Meeting of Association of American Geographers, Chicago, 21-25 April 2015

Organized by Beatriz Bustos (Universidad de Chile) and Gavin Bridge (Durham University)

The last few years have seen a growing interest in understanding the significance of contemporary resource and commodity booms. Papers, panels and other interventions have, in different ways, highlighted and problematized the geographies and political ecologies to which new rounds of primary sector investment and production are giving rise. As welcome and exciting as this flourishing of work on resources is, sustained attention has yet to be given to how the ‘nature-facing’ character of these sectors influences their geographic and organisational form during periods of boom (and bust). From time to time this question of ‘industrial dynamics’ has been raised by those working on the political economy of raw materials and, as a result of these earlier forays, several conceptual resources are available which now provide initial points of entry.

Our interest is in understanding how resource and commodity booms involve not only increases in output and spatial shifts in production, but may do so  - at least in part – by ‘taking hold directly’ (Boyd et al. 2001) of the biophysical system on which these sectors depend. Our aim in this session is develop a better sense of how the biophysical processes central to raw material production may be re-worked during periods of resource boom and bust: how, for example, they may be made to run harder or faster in order to speed up turn-over time; or how production systems push deeper down trophic levels/resource quality pyramids or accentuate qualities (like strength or lightness) by innovating at the molecular level. In short, we are interested in how biophysical systems are re-made at moments of economic expansion and recession. We invite papers that focus on the nature-facing aspect of primary industries, and the extent to which biophysical processes may (or fail to) be pushed/pulled/re-shaped to suit the dynamics of capital accumulation. We particularly welcome papers that are empirically informed but which also engage conceptually with processes of ecological restructuring including, although not at all limited to, the following:

- Intensification and ‘commodity deepening’ (Moore 2010)

- Innovation and the ‘technological treadmill’ of production (Schnaiberg 1980)

- Extensification, spatial fix and ecological crisis

- Formal vs. real subsumption of nature (Boyd et al. 2001)

- Financialisation and the primary sector

- Enhancing the productivity of ‘eco-regulatory’ labour (Benton 1989)

We welcome abstracts on themes and cases relevant to this call. Abstracts should be a maximum of 250 words and include keywords and title. Please submit abstracts to either Beatriz Bustos ( or Gavin Bridge ( by October 29th 2014.