Researchers studying health, adaptability, and political economy have long been concerned with human health as a reflection of interpenetrating sociopolitical, economic, ecological, and bodily processes. However, understanding the production of health in the context of changing political ecologies remains underexplored and undertheorized.
This article proposes a ‘landscape framework’ for understanding variation in health across social and geographic space in contexts characterized by sociopolitical, economic, and environmental change. The proposed framework draws on scholarship from political ecology, medical anthropology, and research on livelihoods vulnerability, and is applied to understand variation in nutritional status, a locally and analytically salient manifestation of livelihood vulnerability, observed among Mikea people living in three communities in rural southwestern Madagascar in 2009.
Because of the conjunctural nature of livelihoods vulnerability during the research period, which residents of the region widely described in idiomatic terms as the baintao lava, or ‘the long wounded year,’ no particular variable, interaction, or local capability is sufficient to explain variation in experienced insecurities and associated nutritional patterns, nor to explain why changes in bodily manifestations of livelihoods vulnerability were observed across seasons of data collection.
Rather than focusing on factors of linear causation, the proposed framework focuses attention on articulations among processes that are associated with long-term adaptability, exposure to acute stressors, and the capabilities of people to take action in response to perceived social and environmental challenges.
By emphasizing process and articulation, the landscape framework allows the analytic integration of scales of socio-ecological interaction, facilitates comparative analyses of vulnerability within regions, and demonstrates how the integration of ecological and social dimensions of experience can help to unmask processes that produce vulnerability and may contribute to resilience in a regional context.