Mansfield, Becky

Mansfield, Becky
Ohio State University

My broad interests are in Nature-Society Relations, Political Economy, Health and the Body, and Politics of the Environment. I draw from feminist, poststructuralist, and Marxist theoretical approaches. My current research is in four main areas:

  1. Biopolitics of environmental health. A current project is about gendered neoliberal biopolitics of nature and risk.  It takes as its object contaminated seafood and current public health efforts to use risk to manage effects of women’s seafood consumption on fetal neurodevelopment.  I am interested in how contemporary risk management approaches position women as the insecure boundary between nature and society, in need of policing to secure the population from environmental health threats.
  2. Posthuman, postnatural, socio-natures of the 21st Century.  While socionatures is no longer a new idea, it is time to move beyond discovering and describing novel, “strange” natures, and instead to understand how particular socionatures work and to whose (human and non-human) benefit.  My research on health and bodies fits here (the body remade by environmental contaminants is definitely a socionature), as does much of my work on fish-as-food.  Currently, I am also involved in a collaborative project examining the socioecological processes of forest recovery in Appalachian Ohio, following a century of devastation from mining and other extractive activities.  We are interested in understanding both the drivers and effects of socionatural change across the 20th century and ongoing today, with particular attention to the visions and actions of local residents.
  3. Neoliberalism and nature.  A long-standing focus of my research has been understanding, explaining, and countering neoliberal environmentalism, with its emphasis on the free market as a means to spur economic growth and environmental protection. Key themes include neoliberal contradictions, scale and scalar relations (including the ongoing role of the national state), and privatization and property regimes in environmental management and political economic change.  The “commons” is a long-standing theme of this research, with a particular focus on challenging “tragedy of the commons” explanations of environmental degradation.  The main empirical target of this research has been fisheries policy in the United States and in global context. 
  4. Challenging dominant discourses of human-environment relations.  Overlapping my interest in neoliberalism and nature is a longstanding interest in challenging ubiquitous and problematic understandings of human-environment relations and how these are used to promote particular explanations of and solutions for environmental problems.  While the “tragedy of the commons” has been forefront in my research, I also challenge the focus on population growth as a central problem and economic development as a main solution (the rich will not save the earth).