Speaking power to ‘post-truth’: critical political ecology and the new authoritarianism

Neimark, B, Benjaminsen, T.A, Cavanagh, C, Childs, J, Harcourt, W, Koot, S, Nightingale, A and Sullivan, S (2019) 'Speaking power to ‘post-truth’: critical political ecology and the new authoritarianism.' Annals of the American Association of Geographers. ISSN 2469-4452 (Forthcoming)


Given a history in political ecology of challenging hegemonic ‘scientific’ narratives concerning environmental problems, the current political moment presents a potent conundrum: how to (continue to) critically engage with narratives of environmental change while simultaneously confronting the ‘populist’ promotion of ‘alternative facts’? We ask how political ecologists might situate themselves vis-à-vis the presently growing power of contemporary authoritarian forms, highlighting how the latter operates through socio-political domains and beyond-human natures. We argue for a clear and conscious strategy of ‘speaking power to post-truth’, so as to enable two things. First, to come to terms with an ‘internal’ paradox of addressing those seeking to obfuscate or deny environmental degradation and social injustice, while retaining political ecology’s own historical critique of the privileged role of Western science and expert knowledge in determining dominant forms of environmental governance. This involves understanding (post-)truth, and its twin pillars of ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’, as operating politically by those regimes looking to shore up power, rather than as embodying a coherent mode of ontological reasoning regarding the nature of reality. Second, we differentiate ‘post-truth’ from analyses affirming diversity in both knowledge and reality (i.e. epistemology and ontology, respectively) regarding the drivers of environmental change. This enables a critical confrontation of contemporary authoritarianism whilst still allowing for a relevant and accessible political ecology which engages with marginalized populations most likely to suffer most from the proliferation of post-truth politics.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: post-truth, political ecology, science, authoritarianism, environmental policy
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2018 12:37
Last Modified: 02 Jan 2019 11:15
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)