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Abstract

Natural resources figure prominently in studies of geographies of wars. This article reviews the three main perspectives on so-called ‘resource wars’: geopolitical, political economy and political ecology. Classical geopolitical perspectives mostly provide ‘realpolitik’ assessments of international tensions over the supply of ‘strategic’ resources. Such geopolitical constructs of ‘resource wars’ frequently oversimplify power relations and provide a fertile ground for critical enquiries. Refining understandings of resource scarcity and power relations, political economy perspectives point at resource dependence and ‘looting’ opportunities as potential risk factors in the onset and duration of armed conflicts. Finally, through greater contextual sensitivity and multiscalar analysis, political ecology perspectives emphasise the diverse forms of violence at play in ‘resource wars’ and stress the importance of identities and territorialities. Bridging and renewing conceptual and methodological approaches drawn from these three perspective could yield yet further insights on so-called ‘resource wars’ and serve broad objectives of social and environmental justice.