Gregory Koutnik

Ph.D. Student in Political Theory

Dissertation Title: In Defense of Home: The Politics of Ecological Belonging

Committee: Jeffrey Green (Chair), Anne Norton, Loren Goldman

Research Interests: Environmental Political Thought, Political Economy, Modern Political Thought, Nostalgia and Belonging, Populism, Space and Place

Summary: My dissertation offers an original approach to environmental political theory by exploring a phenomenon I call ecological belonging, in which human beings come to feel at home in their environs through experiences of value and attachment. It is in this way, I argue, that everyday people come to care about the environment, to see it as intimately their own and worthy of their concern and political engagement. 

I begin by critiquing the prevailing approach to dealing with environmental values in policy and politics, which I call developmentalism. Here places, species, and human homes of lesser market value are viewed as deficient and in need of development to maximize social welfare. I argue that this economic mindset and the policies that emanate from it devalue those things that are most dear to us, that make up our earthly home.

Next, I identify and examine three modes of ecological belonging that developmentalism obscures and undervalues: the economic mode, in which we use our environs to make homes from natural resources; the epistemic mode, in which we seek to understand the habitats that are homes to our nonhuman neighbors; and the affective mode, in which we develop emotional attachments to ecological homeplaces that form a part of our personal identities. Finally, I explore the politics of ecological populism in which everyday people act to curb developmentalist economic policies in defense of the environs they call home. 

University of Pennsylvania
The Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics
133 S. 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6215
Phone: (215) 898-7641

Nicholas Sambanis Chair
Alex Weisiger Graduate Chair
Daniel Hopkins Undergraduate Chair