Praxis in Resource Geography: Tensions between Engagement and Critique in the (Un)Making of Ecosystem Services
Navigating the complications and contradictions that often arise when critical scholars engage with the “subjects” of their research in ways meant to support social change is a messy business. This chapter explores the tensions involved in this mixing of theory and practice (praxis) through the lens of four cases drawn from our differing experiences as critical scholars but holding in common engagement with marginalized peoples involved in the making, or sometimes unmaking, of a novel resource through payments for ecosystem services initiatives. These cases highlight the tensions that we find are inherent in conducting engaged critical scholarship: in the dissonance that inevitably exists between social theory and grounded social processes and the perspectives of the people with whom we engage; in the costs of committing to go beyond coproduction of knowledge and to taking responsibility for coproduction of action; in accepting accountability to the relationships formed during the research processes and the potential hazards in doing so; and in confronting the structural obstacles imposed when attempting to be critical and to engage from within the academy. Our reflections present the tensions of engaged critical scholarship in resource geography as ever-evolving, complex, and above all requiring continuous reflexivity and accountability.