Environmental Determinism as Orientalism: The Geo-Political Ecology of Crisis in the Middle East



Hoffmann C (2018) Environmental Determinism as Orientalism: The Geo-Political Ecology of Crisis in the Middle East. Journal of Historical Sociology, 31 (1), pp. 94-104.

From 'Resource Curse' to 'Climate Conflict', more and more analyses of the current crisis in the Middle East start their reasoning from geo-physical or natural conditions as determinants of social life. Paradoxically, despite its resource riches giving rise to conflict, the region's ecology is portrayed as fragile, alien and hostile. This part of an imperial oriental imagination, which assume that a scarce nature is mismanaged by societies and states overall incapable of negotiating modernity. This precarious, crisis driven environment is now pushed to the edge by the effects of climate change with looming desertification and weather extremes and a scramble for shrinking oil reserves threatening to make the region all but inhabitable, turning the region into a vicious cycle of conflict and environmental degradation. This article suggests that this environmental oriental determinism in Middle East can be overcome by entering political ecology into the register of historical sociological analysis. Re-socialising and historicising nature-society relations avoids reifying the Cartesian nature/society divide, offering historical sociology a better toolkit to navigate the current crisis. Vice versa, it argues that political ecology can benefit from recognising the role of geopolitical relations in the social reproduction nature.

Journal of Historical Sociology: Volume 31, Issue 1

Publication date31/03/2018
Publication date online06/04/2018
Date accepted by journal09/02/2018

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Dr Clemens Hoffmann
Dr Clemens Hoffmann

Lecturer in International Politics, Politics