I am an unabashed generalist, whose research critically examines human-environment relations within the framework of cultural and political ecology across several related fields, including social anthropology, human geography and development studies.
Ethnographic in nature, my research examines how regional political economic processes shape resource access and use, exchange relations and environmental change at different societal scales in Southeast Asia. Specifically, I examine the historical origins and contemporary consequences of changes in environmental governance and conservation practices on the livelihoods and landscapes of rural, resource reliant peoples in Southeast Asia, with a focus on the endangered island of Palawan, the Philippines. I use this frame to critically examine the spread, impact and outcomes of neoliberalism on conservation, livelihoods, and landscapes in the context of protected areas, market-based mechanisms and resource extraction.
My Future Fellowship (2014-2018) aims to examine the contrasting local social responses that emerge at the convergence of transnational governance, resource extraction (mining etc), and conservation interventions in the Philippine and Indonesian frontier. Several conceptual ‘entry points’ define this endeavor, with interests in memory, emotion and value changes defining current work on how locals negotiate aspirations in the face of boom crop production, conservation enclosures, and development interventions. I have also recently examined the process and outcomes of indigenous social movements engaging boom crop production and carbon governance in the context of agrarian change in southern Palawan (Dressler, forthcoming).
This work is in collaboration with the indigenous NGO, NATRIPAL, Palawan State University, and the University of the Philippines Los Banos. I work closely with other Palawan scholars on related issues (see Collaborators page).
Under a new ARC Discovery Grant, Michael Fabinyi (JCU), Michael Pido (PSU) and I are examining the changing nature of access and use relations in coastal livelihoods and intensifying marine seafood commodity chains in St Vicente, Palawan and Mindoro, Philippines. This work also examines fisher perceptions of food security and marine conservation over time and space.
In Indonesia, I work collaboratively with Pak Edi Purwanto of OWT, Amida Cumming and Zach Anderson on changing local aspirations and expectations in response to intensifying environmental governance (REDD+), transitional livelihoods (off farm labour), and commodity production (oil palm) in the Lesan Dayak territories of East Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Other research interests include the neoliberalisation and decline of fisheries, social responses to and movements against enclosures, and changing identities, knowledge and ethnicity during ongoing resource use struggles and violence. Much of my recent research sits at the nexus of political ecology, political economy/ historical materialism, science and technology studies, and the environmental humanities.