Call for Papers
Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, Washington, D.C., 
April 3-7, 2019
‘Global Production Networks and the Problem of Nature: Revisiting the Economic 
Geography of Natural Resources’
Session Organizers: Felipe Irarrazaval (University of Manchester) Beatriz 
Bustos-Gallardo (Universidad de Chile)
Discussant: Liam Campling (Queen Mary University of London)
Sponsored by Economic Geography Specialty Group and Cultural & Political 
Ecology Specialty Group
This session revisits how the obstacles, opportunities and surprises that firms 
face to transform nature into commodities are critical to understanding the 
economic geography of natural resources. Specifically, we encourage researchers 
using a GPN/GVC frame to show how those obstacles, opportunities and surprises 
urge a critical revision of the core ideas of such frames. However, the session 
is open to other approaches in economic geography (broadly understood) or 
heterodox economics which share this spirit. Both theoretical and empirical 
contributions are welcome.
In the last two decades, there has been a change in how economic/resources 
geographers understand the transformation of nature into commodities (Bakker, 
2012). This change is based on the comprehension of natural resources as a 
socio-political construction, and consequently, that natural resources 
production is a socio-ecological process (Baglioni & Campling, 2017). The 
socio-ecological process of nature transformation highlights that firms cannot 
never control production because they rely on overcoming the obstacles, 
opportunities and surprises that the non-human elements imposes – i.e. the 
problem of nature (Boyd, Prudham, & Schurman, 2001). While biological 
production – e.g. agriculture, aquaculture or livestock – heavily depends on 
controlling issues like pests and diseases, extractive industries are shaped by 
access dynamics to sources of better quality and quantity of resources. Both 
types of industries share, in different ways, the challenge of overcoming the 
problem of nature in organising production and accomplishing their objectives 
of accumulation.
Global Production Networks (GPN) analysis has seen an animated expansion of the 
conceptual tools for analysing this issue. For example: how the materiality and 
territoriality of oil are central for the global organization of the industry 
(Bridge, 2008; Bridge & Le Billon, 2012), how resources scarcity and 
environmental regulation reconfigure production networks (Gibson and Warren, 
2016), how inter-firm relations are shaped by environmental standards that meld 
environmental conditions of production and network dynamics (Havice & Campling, 
2017), or how the ecological contradictions which emerge from the production 
stage modify the production network (Irarrazaval and Bustos-Gallardo 
forthcoming). Against this background, this session looks to deepen the 
comprehension and debate of economic geographers on natural resources. We 
especially invite contributors that study critically production networks and 
value chains in or connected to natural resources. Questions could include, but 
are not limited to:

-          What kind of obstacles and surprises does nature impose on firms in 
the organization of production networks?

-          How do firms organise the territorial configurations of production 
to seek to overcome the challenges of transforming nature into commodities?

-          What roles do states and international institutions play in shaping 
nature’s transformation into commodities?

-          What is the role of processes of innovation and technological change 
in the attempt to control natural resource production?

-          How does the problem of nature impact on processes of value 
creation, enhancement and capture?

-          How are inter-firm power relations related to the problem of nature?
Please submit your abstract (250 words) to Felipe Irarrazaval 
 and Beatriz Bustos-Gallardo 
(<>) by Wednesday 17th October.


Baglioni, E., & Campling, L. (2017). Natural resource industries as global 
value chains: Frontiers, fetishism, labour and the state. Environment and 
Planning A, 0308518X17728517.

Bakker, K. (2012). The “Matter of Nature” in Economic Geography. In T. J. 
Barnes, J. Peck, & E. Sheppard (Eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to 
Economic Geography (pp. 104–117). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

Boyd, W., Prudham, W. S., & Schurman, R. A. (2001). Industrial Dynamics and the 
Problem of Nature. Society & Natural Resources, 14(7), 555–570

Bridge, G. (2008). Global production networks and the extractive sector: 
governing resource-based development. Journal of Economic Geography, 8(3), 

Bridge, G., & Le Billon, P. (2012). Oil (1 edition). Cambridge, UK ; Malden, 
MA: Polity Press.

Havice, E., & Campling, L. (2017). Where Chain Governance and Environmental 
Governance Meet: Interfirm Strategies in the Canned Tuna Global Value Chain​. 
Economic Geography, 93(3),

Irarrazaval, F. & Bustos Gallardo, B. (forthcoming) Global Salmon Production 
Networks: Unpacking Ecological Contradictions at the Production Stage Economic 

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