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Paul K. GellertPaul K. Gellert

Associate Professor
Ph.D. 1998 University of Wisconsin-Madison

The University of Tennessee
911 McClung Tower
Knoxville, TN 37996-0490

Phone: 865-974-7023
Curriculum Vitae

Interest Areas

Environmental sociology, development, comparative/historical sociology, political economy, Asian studies, global studies

My current research focuses on the political economy of natural resources and development in Indonesia and in the US. Working within a broad world-systems perspective and conducting comparative-historical research, I am interested in the role of natural resources in the development trajectories of extractive regions and peripheral zones of the world-economy.

In a new project, with support from UT's Jefferson Prize, first, I am conducting comparative research on the political economy of the coal sector in Indonesia and US Appalachia. With a number of colleagues, I am preparing a special issue of a journal on the environmental impacts and political economy of coal. In addition, an edited volume that will include case studies of coal from around the world is in preparation. Historical research and fieldwork in this area will continue through 2016.

Second, I am fascinated by economic nationalism and its changing expression in the neoliberal era. As opposed to nationalism of the anti-colonial and early post-colonial periods, I investigate how newer forms of nationalism are less broad-based and more discursive. Related questions of ideology and development fascinate me. In this area, I recently published an article in Journal of Contemporary Asia on the neoliberalization of development found in an education program in Indonesia that is similar to Teach for America. I also am working with a colleague on comparing economic nationalism in Indonesia and Bolivia.

Third, given heightened attention to questions of governance of natural resources, I am expanding into the area of law and society. In this area, I investigate the calls by international financial institutions and investors for stable, predictable investment climates and the limits of "rule of law" as a framework for improving governance of forest and other natural resources in development. In collaborative work with an activist lawyer in Indonesia, Andiko, I have one article forthcoming in The Journal of Asian Studies that criticizes rule of law and forest land authority amid jurisdiction disputes. We have plans for further collaborative research.

Fourth, I enter into theoretical debates about the dialectical relationship in socio-nature (rather than "between" nature and society). In this work, I am interested in bridging the nomothetic tendencies of sociology with the ideographic emphases of history and anthropology. In a paper under review, I examine the dynamics of accumulation by dispossession due to exponential growth in Indonesia's oil palm plantation sector.  Finally, an article (with Barbara Lynch) on mega-projects and displacements that addresses the socio-environmental impacts of such projects was recently re-published in a collection on megaprojects and planning.

I welcome the opportunity to work with students whose research interests intersect with in any of these areas



  • Sociological Theory
  • The Modern World System


  • Sociology and Social Justice
  • Pedagogy and Graduate Instruction
  • Comparative-Historical Sociology
  • Advanced Political Economy: Political Economy of Natural Resources
  • Sociology of Development
  • Political Sociology

Independent Study:

  • Political economy of media
  • Shareholder value and political economy of forestry
  • Economic concentration and dependency
  • Web-based research methods
  • Sociology of environment
  • Political sociology of corporate power

Frey, R. Scott, Paul K. Gellert, and Harry F. Dahms, eds. 2018 (Forthcoming). Ecologically Unequal Exchange - Environmental Injustice in Comparative and Historical Perspective. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

Gellert, Paul K. 2018 (Forthcoming). "Bunker’s Ecologically Unequal Exchange, Foster's Metabolic Rift and Moore's World-Ecology: Distinctions with or without a Difference?” Chapter 4 in Ecologically Unequal Exchange - Environmental Injustice in Comparative and Historical Perspective, edited by R. Scott Frey, Paul K. Gellert, and Harry F. Dahms.. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

Ciccantell, Paul S. and Paul K. Gellert. 2018 (Forthcoming). “Historical Materialism and Socio-Economic Change in the Coal Industry.” Chapter 7 in Energy and Society Handbook, edited by Debra J. Davidson and Matthias Gross. Oxford University Press.

Ciccantell, Paul S. and Paul K. Gellert. 2018. “The Longue Durée and Raw Materialism of Coal: Against the So-called ‘Death of Coal’.” The World-System as Unit of Analysis: Past Contributions and Future Advances, edited by Patricio Korzeniewicz. Routledge Press. 

Frey, R. Scott, Paul K. Gellert, and Harry F. Dahms, eds.. 2017. Special Issue on Ecologically Unequal Exchange in Comparative Perspective. Journal of World-Systems Research 23(2): 226-398. 

Kaup, Brent Z. and Paul K. Gellert,“Cycles of Resource Nationalism: Hegemonic Struggle and the Incorporation of Bolivia and Indonesia.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 58(4): 275-303. doi: 10.1177/0020715217714298

Gellert, Paul K. 2015. “Palm Oil Expansion in Indonesia: Land Grabbing as Accumulation by Dispossession.” Current Perspectives in Social Theory 34: 65-99. Edited by J. Shefner. Bingley, UK: Emerald Press

Gellert, Paul K. and Andiko. 2015. “The quest for legal certainty and the reorganization of power: struggles over forest law, permits and rights.” The Journal of Asian Studies 74(3):639-666. doi: 10.1017/S0021911815000613 . 

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