As a feminist political ecologist, Ingrid Nelson explores one overarching question: What are the politics involved in making spaces ‘green’? This question requires understanding who exactly determines which spaces need what kinds of environmental improvements and who might benefit or be excluded from these interventions. Most generally, her work addresses the challenge of creating ‘just’ spaces and informed political actors amidst ostensibly ‘positive’ nature-society discourses. She has worked on different facets of this question since her time as an undergraduate student writing an honors thesis on the political ecologies of the American lawn.
Other examples of the kinds of spaces that Ingrid observes include: rural communities and forests in Mozambique, college campuses, sustainability conferences, primate sanctuaries, ‘virtual spaces’ such as social media platforms and the bodies of the humans and non-human things such as grass, animals, chemicals and scientific sensing devices that inhabit and remake these spaces. All of these seemingly disparate spaces are political sites of environmental concern, abstraction and action. Ingrid is particularly interested in the conflicting environmental discourses and claims to expertise expressed in maps, rumors, scientific reports, work songs, social media commentary, community development trainings, conference presentations and institutional reports. These conflicting knowledge claims produce particular kinds of ‘green’ landscapes, citizens and relationships. Her work intersects with geography, anthropology, sexuality and gender studies, critical development and sustainability studies and feminist science, technology and society studies (STS).
Since joining UVM, Ingrid’s scholarly work has emphasized three key aspects of making spaces ‘green’: (1) the specific social media and environmental data production and analysis practices required for making spaces green (draws from STS); (2) the central role that rumor and everyday practices play as a simultaneous challenge to environmental and international development expertise and as a material force for sustaining and changing landscapes (draws from anthropological methods); and (3) the roles that animals and other non-human things play in transforming our ideas of who and what belongs in ‘green’ spaces (broadly interdisciplinary). Ingrid is especially committed to empirical research within institutional sites of environmental knowledge production such as in the spaces where environmental activists and non-governmental organization staff work, on the campuses of higher education institutions and in professional sustainability conference events.