Illicit geographies and contested environments: An introduction

Jared D. Margulies*, Francis Massé, Brittany VandeBerg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The special issue Illicit geographies and contested environments centers the intersection between environmental change and illicit geographies. It brings together five research articles that together underpin and substantiate what we are calling political ecologies of the illicit. In the introduction to the special issue, we review how scholars situated at the intersections of political geography and political ecology contribute to the study of illicit economies and how responses to them produce and/or reify long-standing practices of exclusionary environmental protection and securitization bolstering military, state, and capitalist economic power and control. The articles cover a wide range of empirical contexts from illicit crop cultivation and drug economies to illegal timber and commodity trades to the role of policing in (re)shaping illicit environmental activities. Across these studies is a clear central theme: how the state and its practices are central to defining, (co)producing, shaping, and benefitting from illicit activities with environmental consequences. The articles demonstrate that illicit practices are often not so different from state-like practices; both are concerned with maintaining privileged access to, and power over, the management and circulation of resources and the spaces they derive from. The introduction provides an overview to these themes, focused on how the illicit reconfigures human-environment relations and produces new sorts of environmental actors through ever-expanding frontiers of accumulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102818
JournalPolitical Geography
Early online date27 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023

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