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Scientific article


Space, nature and hierarchy: the ecosystemic politics of the Caspian Sea

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The Anthropocene has given rise to growing efforts to govern the world’s ecosystems. There is a hitch, however, ecosystems do not respect sovereign borders; hundreds traverse more three states and thus require complex international cooperation.

This article critically examines the political and social consequences of the growing but understudied trend towards transboundary ecosystem cooperation. Matchmaking the new hierarchy scholarship in International Relations (IR) and political geography, the article theorises how ecosystem discourse embodies a latent spatially exclusive logic that can bind together and bound from outside unusual bedfellows in otherwise politically awkward spaces. The authors contend that such ‘ecosystemic politics’ can generate spatialised ‘broad hierarchies’ that cut across both Westphalian renderings of space and the latent post-colonial and/or material inequalities that have hitherto been the focus of most of the new hierarchies scholarship.

Rowe and Beaumont illustrate their argument by conducting a multilevel longitudinal analysis of how Caspian Sea environmental cooperation has produced a broad hierarchy demarking and sharpening the boundaries of the region, become symbolic of Caspian in-group competence and neighbourliness, and used as a rationale for future Caspian-shaped cooperation.

They reason that if ecosystemic politics can generate new renderings of space amid an otherwise heavily contested space as the Caspian, further research is warranted to explore systemic hierarchical consequences elsewhere.


  • Russia and Eurasia
  • Climate
  • Oceans
  • Governance