What is Feminist Political Ecology (FPE)?

what is feminist political ecology

WEGO-ITN is a network where Feminist Political ecology (FPE) scholars and activists can build the tools of the FPE framework through close collaboration in research, campaigning and joint writing. This summary briefly (and partially) sets out the answer to ‘what is feminist political ecology’ with reference to some of the main tenets of FPE as a tool of analysis, practice and research. 

FPE is a framework of analysis

Feminist political ecology (FPE) is “a process of doing environmentalism, justice and feminism differently”(Harcourt and Nelson 2015: 9). It is a research and practice that builds on political ecology to include gendered power relations across a range of scales: between local, intra-household and intra-community processes from local to global. FPE has an (often implicit) ‘commitment to feminist epistemology, methods and values … where emphasis is given to research and practice that empowers and promotes social and ecological transformation for women and other marginalized groups (Elmhirst 2018: 1)

FPE places power center stage

FPE examines the basis of power and knowledge in gender relations and economic and ecological systemsby looking at how multiple forms of knowledge shape and co-construct environmental practices and the politics of the everyday.In its analysis, FPE places the operations of power centre stage utilising the ‘theoretical lenses of political economy, human agency, material nature and discourse, conflict and competition, governmentality and the creation of environmental subjects’  (Resurrecion 2017:71). In this way, FPE interrogates structural forms of power that define inequality and differentiated access and control of resources through multiple forms of social difference such as gender, class, ethnicity, age, ability, sexuality and nation (Clement et al 2019: 3). 

FPE critiques the dominant scientific gaze

FPE analysis challenges the dominant scientific gaze and the discourse of environmental science. To do this, it draws on the experience and knowledge arising from the strugglesfor justice of local communities in their day to day lives and indigenous, feminist and environmental movements. The focus then, is on struggles over access and resource control: across spatial scales – when global and local priorities conflict; across timescales –when governments struggle to reconcile long-term environmental agendas with short-term domestic interests and political cycles; across social difference – when diverse positions and values clash.

FPE engages in the on-going debate about socio-nature relations and connections 

FPE research and practice contribute to an on-going debate within political ecology and feminist studies about the complex relations between society and natureand how to respond to social and ecological change. FPE importantly looks at how body, gender, nature and society are interrelated. FPE understands‘environment’ or ‘socio-nature’ as ‘an extension of and extends into the body as a site of material reproduction and ecological impact ‘(Nightingale 2011:155). In building up its understanding of how nature and culture, society and nature co-constitute each other, FPE pays attention to the everyday practices strongly influenced by critiques of science by feminist theory, queer theory and environmental humanities, and feminist of colour critiques of whiteness and privilege.

For more on FPE concepts and themes see  https://www.wegoitn.org/online-learning/feminist-political-ecology-core-themes/

FPE doing research differently

FPE is an ‘expansive and open-ended field that embraces and contributes to diverse theorisations of social relations of power associated with natures, culture and economies’ (Rebecca Elmhirst 2018:1) FPE scholar activists work with communities, engaging in collaborative work and they are careful to position who speaks for whom, why and where. FPE scholars at the same time boldly position themselves politically as feminists in their research, and this positioning is explicit in their writing, methodology and analysis. 

WEGO-ITN and FPE in Action

WEGO-ITN is building a grounded understanding of feminist political ecology looking how everyday practices of social difference, environmental change and political economies cross scales and shape global processes in the different PhD projects. WEGO-ITN project is exploring diverse and layered visions and understandings of FPE through the different PhD projects and in the on-going WEGO Network collaborations: https://kumu.io/constancedupuis/wego-network-collaborations

WEGO-ITN encourages creative and innovative forms of research collaborating with communities, contributing to political movements, doing collaborative as well as individual research that is pushing the boundaries of FPE. WEGO-ITN members are contributingto local campaigns around degrowth, ending fracking and extractivism, gender and labour rights, aging, food sovereignty, rural well-being, reproductive rights and health and rights to clean water. 

What to look forward to

Open access publications are planned with a ‘Handbook on Feminist Political Ecology’ to be published by Routledge in 2021 and a special section of the Journal of Peasant Studies in 2022. 


Clement, F., W. Harcourt, W. D. Joshi, D. & C. Sato (2019). Feminist political ecologies of the commons and commoning (Editorial to the Special Feature). International Journal of the Commons13(1), 1–15. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/ijc.972

Elmhirst, R. (2018) Feminist Political Ecologies – Situated Perspectives, Emerging Engagements Ecologia PoliticaNo.54. Special Issue on Ecofeminism (“Ecofeminismos”), January 2018https://www.ecologiapolitica.info/?p=10162

Harcourt, W. and  I. L. Nelson (2015)  ‘Introduction: Are We ‘Green’ Yet? And the violence of asking such a question’ in W. Harcourt and I.L. Nelson (eds) Practicing Feminist Political Ecology: Beyond the Green Economy London: Zed Books (1-28).

Nightingale, A.J. (2011).Bounding difference: Intersectionality and the material production of gender, caste, class and environment in Nepal. Geoforum 42 (2011) 153–162 

Resurrección, B. P. (2017) Gender and Environment: From ‘Women, Environment and Development’ to Feminist Political Ecology. Routledge Handbook of Gender and Environment. MacGregor, S .ed.  New York: Routledge (71–850.