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Interrupting the telos: locating subsistence in contemporary US forests

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Emery, Marla R.; Pierce, Alan R.

Year Published



Environment and Planning 37:981-993


People continue to hunt, fish, trap, and gather for subsistence purposes in the contemporary United States. This fact has implications for forest policy, as suggested by an international convention on temperate and boreal forests, commonly known as the Montreal Process. Three canons of law provide a legal basis for subsistence activities by designated social groups in Alaska and Hawaii and by American Indians with treaty rights in the coterminous forty-eight states. A literature review also presents evidence of such practices by people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds throughout the nation. Teleological notions of development espoused by both neoliberal and Marxist scholars suggest that subsistence activities should not persist in a First World setting except as failures of the officially sanctioned economic system. However, alternative economic perspectives from peasant studies and economic geography offer a conceptual framework for viewing at least some subsistence activities as having a logic and values outside of, if articulated with, market structures. Meeting the Montreal Process goal of providing for subsistence use of forests will require research focused on local practices and terms of access to resources as well as their relationship to state and capital processes. We outline the basics of a research agenda on subsistence for an emerging First World political ecology.


Emery, Marla R.; Pierce, Alan R. 2005. Interrupting the telos: locating subsistence in contemporary US forests. Environment and Planning 37:981-993

Last updated on: June 14, 2006