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CSEC/Sociology Seminar: Nature and Capital Part 3

Date: 17 December 2010 Time: 2.00-5.00 pm

Venue: Bowland North Seminar Room 3

Nature and Capital Seminar series: Part 3

This seminar is part of a series of three events on the topic of 'Nature and Capital'. The theme brings together those interested in ways in which the natural (biodiversity, biology, the body, carbon) is entangled in questions of capital and value. Invited speakers will open each event followed by shorter presentations and a round table discussion. Our two invited speakers for this third event are Sian Sullivan from Birbeck College, London, and John Urry from the Sociology Department at Lancaster. The afternoon ( 2.00-5.00 p.m.) will consist of two papers with plenty of time for questions and further 'round table' discussion on the contemporaryinter-relationships of nature and capital.

Sian Sullivan is a Lecturer in Environment & Development and Director of the BSc/BA Geography and Environment in the School of Geography, Environment & Development Studies at Birkbeck College. His research interests cover: biodiversity conservation, capitalism and social exclusion; epistemologies of human/non-human relationships; shamanism and shamanic landscapes; political ecology and social movements; dryland ecology, nomadism and non-equilibrium dynamics; KhoeSān, Southern Africa; dance, the body and embodiment.

Please see Sian's webpages for more information on his research:>

John Urry is Distinguished Professor of Sociology in the Sociology Department at Lancaster. He has written on many different aspects of contemporary society and has been pivotal in initiating a new 'mobilities' paradigm within Sociology, looking at the changing nature of modern mobilities. He is one of the founding editors of the journal Mobilities.

Please see John's webpages for more information on his research:

The two papers for the afternoon will be as follows:

Sian Sullivan

BANKING NATURE: ON THE SPECTACULAR FINANCIALISATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION, WITH MARX AND FOUCAULTAbstractIn this paper I highlight tendencies in global environmental governance towards the financialisation of environmental conservation. Finance capital, in collaboration with conservation agendas, is creating a spectacular investment frontier in conservation. This is assisted by a promise of lucrative gains, combined with geographical substitutability in proliferating commodified indicators of environmental health and damage. The financialisation of environmental conservation is manifesting as: 1. the turning of financiers to conservation as a locus for investment; and 2. the modelling of conservation practice and non-human worlds in terms of banking and financial categories. I delineate four aspects of this process: nature finance, nature work, nature banking and nature derivatives. I theorise these phenomena through two lenses: 1. current thinking regarding the continuous nature of primitive accumulation as initially framed by Marx; and 2. a Foucaultian analysis of the financialisation of environmental conservation as permitting the technical entraining of environmental governance to the controlling tenets of neoliberal capitalism.

John Urry



I examine how high carbon lives are not the consequence of individual behaviour and preference. It is a question of the historically embedded ways, or systems, in which certain kinds of social practice were established and sustained especially through a 'carbon metabolism' with nature. That metabolism laid down enormously powerful habitual patterns of life, a 'carbon-metabolic profligacy' that constitutes what humans are, and what they could and should do. I examine many forms in which high carbon social practices have developed and been extended. This production and consumption of consumer goods, services, brands and places involve the spreading out of systems of provision increasingly beyond neighbourhood and result in many kinds of habitual dependence upon goods and services some of which can be seen as forms of addiction especially during the neo-liberal era. Significant in this development was how during the middle years of this last century various interdependent high carbon systems of production and consumption at a distance were established in the US. They then moved out around the world especially as they became thought of as progressive and fashionable. Such American products, services and places remade life in Europe and then throughout much of the rest of the world albeit with a much lower level of energy use. This produced an awesome and hard to reverse high carbon legacy especially dependent upon oil which makes the world go round.

The papers will be followed by a round table discussion open to all on the intersections of nature and capital, the consequnecs and effects of these and the ways in which we might study them.


2.00 - 2.45 Sian Sullivan: Banking Nature: On The Spectacular Financialisation Of Environmental Conservation, With Marx And Foucault

2.45 - 3.30 John Urry: High Carbon Lives

3.30 - Tea

3.45 - 5.00 Nature and Capital - Round Table Discussion


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Claire Waterton

Organising departments and research centres: Centre for the Study of Environmental Change, Geography, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster Environment Centre LEC, Sociology

Keywords: Capitalism, Environment, Nature, Science and technology studies, Sociology


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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