Introduction Political ecology is a field that engenders frustration. Despite its seemingly endless expansion and notorious lack of definition, it manages to survive, thrive, and maintain an identity (Blaikie 1999; Kepe et al. 2008). At the same time, a great deal of recent effort has been made to “synthesize” political ecology within other fields, including land change science and environmental health, yet it remains stubbornly hard to digest and metabolize (Brannstrom and Vadjunec 2013; King and Crews 2013). The field’s most ardent critics suggest that it has no particular grasp on explanation and is instead agenda-driven narrative (Vayda 2009; Vayda and Walters 1999). Even its founding thinkers have difficulty in explaining its utility (Blaikie 2008). How does a field that continues to endlessly expand also manage to maintain coherence? If a field accepts almost any method, and a great many concepts, how does it sustain an identity? If it has no utility, why is it so often used?