Panel on Political and Social Ecology in Cyprus (with sea-related case studies)

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1st International Conference of the Cyprus Association of Political Science (CAPS):

“Politics of Crisis”

 University of Cyprus, Saturday, 22 November 2014

Panel 8: 14:30 – 16:30, Building 7, Room 010


Panel | Political and social ecology at times of “crisis”: Theoretical perspectives and case studies


The word “crisis” might become a buzzword used to explain, justify and cover-up actions of governments – states and corporations – markets that would have otherwise been received with stronger objections by other stakeholders, including local communities, civil society and social movements. In this context, ecological “crises” should be understood as developments linked to conscious political and administrative decisions, which are to be framed within a system of capitalist accumulation, social hierarchy, political domination and environmental degradation. This panel will discuss the ways in which today’s crisis of contemporary politics, depicted as an offspring of the neoliberal paradigm, is being used as an excuse to legitimize ecological destruction and the appropriation of environmental goods and social rights. The Commons, as a resource or as space fall in the grey zone between public and private ownership, a form of property right which tends to be the first to be appropriated at times of crisis. However, at the same time, Commons become an important theme for the emergence and development of social and environmental movements. Based on the theoretical perspectives of political and social ecology, the panel will present and discuss case studies of such “crises” from the Mediterranean region and the European Union.


Chair: Tasos Hovardas | Senior Teaching Fellow | Department of Education| Faculty of Social Sciences and Education| University of Cyprus

Discussant: Stavros Tombazos | Assistant Professor | Department of Social and Political Sciences| Faculty of Social Sciences and Education| University of Cyprus



1) Maria Hadjimichael |Postdoc | Department of Development and Planning| Faculty of Engineering and Planning| Aalborg University

Maria Hadjimichael is a postdoctoral researcher at the Innovative Fisheries Management of Aalborg University in Denmark and Tromso University in Norway. Her interest lies in the study and understanding of the governance of the commons, particularly marine and coastal commons, through a political ecology lense. She has an interdisciplinary background with a BSc in Natural Environmental Sciences and a MSc in Marine Environmental Protection. Her PhD explored the human dimension of the European fisheries governance. She has worked on numerous interdisciplinary EU funded projects and conducted fieldwork in the UK, Spain, Denmark, Greece, Cyprus, the US and Chile.

The stealing of the seashore as a second wave of the enclosure movement: Examples from the Mediterranean


The conception of the term the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ by Garret Hardin in 1968 has become a milestone in the history of natural resource management, with the supporters of neoliberal dogma, using the term and Hardin’s theory, to justify attempts for the privatisation and commodification of ‘goods’ which for years have been under the control of local communities. Commons refer to the cultural and natural resources which are held in common and are accessible to all members of a society and have no official legal status particularly in the Western societies particularly as physical space is defined as either public or private property. The Commons are ‘enclosed’ during times of crisis, and transformed into private property. The first wave of enclosures intensified in England around the 17th century, and in the rest of Western Europe around the 19th century. The recent economic crisis is used to justify a second wave of enclosures, targeting the last remaining Commons, such as public squares and the seashore. This presentation will briefly examine the historical changes of the Commons in Western countries and argues the marking of a second enclosure movement with examples of the appropriation of peoples’ right to the seashore in the Mediterranean.


2) Tasos Hovardas |Senior Teaching Fellow| Department of Education| Faculty of Social Sciences and Education| University of Cyprus

Tasos Hovardas has a PhD in Environmental Social Science obtained from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. His research interests include ecology and conservation, environmental politics, and environmental governance. Tasos has authored or co-authored 24 papers in international peer reviewed journals, 4 invited book chapters, and numerous papers in peer reviewed conferences. He currently acts as an Associate Editor for Society and Natural Resources. He has reviewed papers for 15 international journals and he has worked on 10 research projects. Tasos has served as a Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Cyprus and at the University of Thessaly, Greece.

A critical reading of ecological modernization: Necessary labour time and subdivisions of production


Capitalist accumulation is advanced as long as part of surplus value is re-invested as constant capital to promote competition among individual capitals. However, this might lead to the exhaustion of conditions of production, which are frequently referred to as “ecological crises”. In these crises, socially necessary labour time is severely impacted and individual capitals have to either relocate or ‘perish’. Ecological crises might scale-up to a point where capitalist accumulation is not possible unless socially necessary labour time is reconfigured to rearrange competition among individual capitals. A critical reading of ecological modernization is that green technology and/or environmental legislation are employed to regulate socially necessary labour time. However, crises are not always accompanied by underproduction all over the economy sector. It has been observed that during crises, the subdivision of production that creates means of production is expected to increase as compared to the subdivision of that creates goods and services. For instance, we are currently witnessing an increase in the energy sector involving both non-renewable and renewable forms of energy. Since energy can serve as both a consumer good and as a means of production, the energy sector seems to provide a perfect solution for “refuelling” stagnating economies.


3) Klitos Papastylianou | Researcher in political and environmental sociology| BA in Political Science and History| MSc in Environmental Social Science

Klitos Papastylianou has a degree in Political Science and History (Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences), and a master’s in Environmental Social Science (School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent). His research interests include political and environmental sociology and evolve around: scientific and utopian socialism; democracy, civil society and public sphere; collective action, social movements and contentious politics; environmental ethics and politics; critical social theory and green political thought; social and political ecology. He works on environmental, peace, social justice and human rights issues.

Hydrocarbons exploitation at times of “crisis”: The case of the Republic of Cyprus from the critical perspectives of political and social ecology


Hydrocarbons exploitation has turned into a major energy, political and economic issue at times of “crises” in Cyprus. Apart from being presented as the way of overcoming the problem of energy dependency on imported oil, hydrocarbons exploitation is often portrayed as the “solution” to the two other major issues that trouble Cyprus: the political problem with the conflict between the ethnic and religious communities and the division of the island, as well as the economic crisis, which led in a macroeconomic adjustment programme with the Troika, including the downsizing of the country’s financial sector, fiscal consolidation, structural reforms and privatization. This paper presents and analyses the politics of fossil fuels extraction from the perspectives of political and social ecology. By bringing together theoretical approaches and analytical tools from eco-socialist and eco-libertarian traditions (“treadmill of production and consumption”, “legacy of hierarchy and domination”), with collective action frames (“commons”, “de-growth”, “de-militarization”), it questions the populist discourse of the so-called “triangular solution”. In this framework, it provides a critical overview of the environmental, social, economic and political impacts of offshore hydrocarbons exploitation, through the case study of the exploratory drilling in the Block 12 of the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus.


4) Konstantinos Korfiatis | Assistant Professor| Department of Education| Faculty of Social Sciences and Education | University of Cyprus

Konstantinos Korfiatis has a degree in Biology and a Ph.D from the School of Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He works and publishes on the development and evaluation of educational material for environmental education and ecology, the importance of conceptual frameworks and worldviews in environmental education, and on theoretical issues in ecology and environmental education. He is currently coordinating an initiative for the educational and social utilization of kitchen gardens in elementary schools.

The politics of pro-environmental campaigns: Beyond neutralism and indoctrination


I will discuss the main environmental and social narratives that are emerging from current environmental communication and education practices. I will argue that the more “institutional” forms of environmental communication and education (e.g. environmental education projects implemented in schools or environmental campaigns from governmental organizations) tend very often to focus on rather neutral environmental issues, which do not give the opportunity to participants to realize the complexity of humans-society-environment interactions. They also focus on the individual dimension of human-nature relationships and not on the social dimension of it which is most strongly related with the causes of exploitation of nature. Environmental activist groups and the most radical NGOs, on the other hand, promote a discourse which is so much relied on the imagery of the polluted and “dying” Earth and on the guiltiness of human species as such. I will analyze the reasons for which, according to my opinion, this approach is ineffective nowadays and it rather discourages people rather than helping them to react against environmental exploitation. Finally, I will outline a framework for environmental communication and education which is promoting critical thinking and empowerment for social action.


5) Anna Misiaouli | PhD Student \ Department of Turkish and Middle Eastern Studies | Faculty of Humanities | University of Cyprus

Anna Misiaouli obtained her BA in Turkish Studies from the University of Cyprus. She pursued an MA in Social and Public Policy, Duquesne University, PA, USA, a graduate certificate in conflict resolution and peace studies at the same university and a graduate certificate in civil society initiatives in peace building from the School for International Training, VE, USA. Currently, she is pursuing her PhD at the Turkish Studies department, University of Cyprus working on the Turkish Cypriot mobilizations of 2000-2013, as a non-violent social movement. Her research interests evolve around social movements, non-violence and social ecology, among others.

Turkish Cypriot mobilizations of 2000-2013: Collective action as a non-violent movement


The mobilizations of Turkish Cypriots emerged through desire, among other links, for distancing and autonomy from domination elements of the Turkish state, as well as Greek Cypriots. For this purpose, the theoretical framework that will be utilized is social ecology, as a way to analyze the forms of hierarchy and domination within and over the Turkish Cypriot community. Social ecology was coined by Murray Bookchin linking directly the function of power and formation of institutional hierarchy to the crisis of community and as a way of comprehending the movements which emerged since the 1960’s. “Direct popular control of society by its citizens” is advocated as a social movement practice and as a conscious choice part of a wise strategy to combat in essence imperative stands of capitalism. Turkish Cypriots “gatherings for communal existence” are strikingly similar to “lack of social identity hallowed out by the breakdown of community, by the mutual networks of support systems”. This presentation aims at exploring historical change as a reality shaped by collective action without the use of violence. It is also viewed as an opportunity to the Turkish Cypriot “story” to be heard, “as all people’s story is yet to be told”.