Environmental governance regimes—how we conceptualize, employ and protect the natural world—are at the center of my scholarly agenda. There are currently two main trajectories associated with this work.
The first explores the way in which existing legal frameworks and institutions are often based on outdated assumptions about both social and ecological systems, including the assumption of stationarity—the idea that natural systems function within a state of equilibrium that can be managed and maintained.
For the most part, these assumptions have led to institutionalized approaches to environmental management that rely on prescriptive legal requirements. While these approaches achieved significant positive outcomes, the complexities associated with current and future environmental challenges—which include biodiversity loss, climate change and resource consumption—will require a new set of management tools.
My research focuses on the next generation of environmental governance approaches and the extent to which existing legal and institutional frameworks facilitate and constrain their theoretical development and practical application.
The second aspect of my work takes place within the growing, transdisciplinary field of legal geography. Legal geographers explore the mutually constitutive qualities of law and space and investigate the dynamic relationship to spatial forms and discourses and their corresponding productions of control, authority and power. My work in this area includes an examination of how resource allocation regimes and environmental protections operationalize often overlapping and competing legal processes and privileges, creating deeply contested landscapes. I also look at how the seemingly “procedural” rules governing the adjudicative processes for these contests often play a substantive—and even dispositive—role.
I teach several undergraduate and graduate level courses that touch on these topics, including:
Melinda Harm Benson, Assistant Professor
Department of Geography
Bandelier Hall West Room 223
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001