Geography Political Geology
Adam Bobbette
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0222


Political geology is concerned with the relationship between geological process, matter, and politics. It is a relatively recent neologism adopted by geographers and includes scholarship from a number of disciplines adjacent to geography, including anthropology, history of science, science and technology studies, and religious studies. The emergence of the Anthropocene no doubt played a role in raising geographers’ interest in the politicization of geology and geological knowledge. Much work in the field has begun to depart from the lens of Anthropocene studies and venture into new intellectual territory. Political geology seeks to understand geological knowledge as a tradition with histories and geographies. It studies the history of the geological sciences across world cultures and has an expanded conception of geological knowledge (and the sciences) beyond a focus on Euro-America. It is building a cosmopolitan understanding of the geological sciences. Geological knowledge is not taken for granted to speak for the earth system but is placed in its cultural, technological, and political context. At the same time, political geologists are concerned with the vibrant, lively materiality of geology. They are interested in Earth’s capacity to act upon politics and create political cultures. A renewed attention to the agency of geology has resulted in a number of papers that stress the ‘geo’ in geopolitics—the grounded, material dimension that situates all and any politics. There has therefore been an uptick in scholarship on verticality, depth, and resource extraction that foregrounds the material agency of geological process. This has been further brought together with consideration of the multiple knowledge traditions that claim to know and represent geological material. The conventional distinctions between geology and spirituality, geological sciences and religion, organic and inorganic, have been questioned. Alternative modes of writing about geology and the sciences are being explored through performance, fiction, sculpture, and poetry. Political geological scholarship thus brings together a number of discussions about the intersections among knowledge, Earth, power and governance. What follows is a broad introduction and survey of the key formative works of political geology, histories of geological knowledge, theoretical preoccupations, and sites of interest to political geologists. The theory and sites sections are ordered alphabetically.

Primers and Edited Collections

As an emerging subdiscipline, political geology has only a few dedicated collections. Bobbette and Donovan 2019 bring together eleven scholars, many with essays in different sections in this bibliography. The Clark and Yusoff 2017 special issue of Theory, Culture & Society, focuses on the theme of geosocial formations and the Anthropocene, and covers similar terrain with a more theoretical focus on social theory.

  • Bobbette, Adam, and Amy Donovan, eds. Political Geology: Active Stratigraphies and the Making of Life. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave, 2019.

    The first collected volume that brings together major themes of political geology. It is divided into three parts: “Political Geologies of Knowledge,” “Amodern Political Geologies,” and “Political Geologies of the Future.” It includes a substantive introduction and conclusion situating the emergence and significance of political geology. Good overview of the field.

  • Clark, Nigel, and Kathryn Yusoff, eds. Special Issue: Geosocial Formations and the Anthropocene. Theory, Culture & Society 34.2–3: (2017).

    An excellent special issue of thirteen essays covering a broad range of themes relating to the relationship between the social and geological. Primarily focused on the prism of the Anthropocene but not exclusively.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.