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Ethnographies of Conservation

Ethnographies of Conservation: Environmentalism and the Distribution of Privilege

David G. Anderson
Eeva Berglund
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 242
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  • Book Info
    Ethnographies of Conservation
    Book Description:

    Anthropologists know that conservation often disempowers already under-privileged groups, and that it also fails to protect environments. Through a series of ethnographic studies, this book argues that the real problem is not the disappearance of "pristine nature" or even the land-use practices of uneducated people. Rather, what we know about culturally determined patterns of consumption, production and unequal distribution, suggests that critical attention would be better turned on discourses of "primitiveness" and "pristine nature" so prevalent within conservation ideology, and on the historically formed power and exchange relationships that they help perpetuate.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-674-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Maps and Figures
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. x-xii)
  6. Introduction: Towards an Ethnography of Ecological Underprivilege
    (pp. 1-15)
    Eeva Berglund and David G. Anderson

    Anthropologists at the start of the twenty-first century face familiar professional challenges. As always, they must engage with both the ethnographic encounter and the preoccupations of academic production. Once again, as a century ago, anthropological work is framed by the crumbling of relatively stable global power blocks. If a century ago the so-called centres of world civilisation found themselves dethroned by colonial independence movements, and then gutted by world wars, today a new order is being built upon the rubble of post-socialism and warring fundamentalisms. At the start of the past century, the great settler states of Argentina, Australia, Brazil,...

  7. [Map]
    (pp. 16-16)
  8. Part I: Anthropology, Ecopolitics and Discrimination

    • 1 PITFALLS OF SYNCHRONICITY: A Case Study of the Caiçaras in the Atlantic Rainforest of South-eastern Brazil
      (pp. 19-32)
      Cristina Adams

      The first protected area to be established in Brazil was the Itatiaia National Park, in 1937, inspired by the North American conservation model. Since then many Protected Areas have been instituted by the Brazilian government, and divided into categories of restrictions. According to national environmental laws,¹ restrictive protected areas (national parks, biological reserves, ecological and biological stations) should be used only for scientific, leisure or conservation purposes, remaining uninhabited. As in most developing countries, the establishment of protected areas in Brazil was a top-down process motivated more by political than by technical reasons. A significant number of protected areas were...

    • 2 NATURE AS CONTESTED TERRAIN: Conflicts Over Wilderness Protection and Local Livelihoods in Río San Juan, Nicaragua
      (pp. 33-49)
      Anja Nygren

      This piece of history was narrated by don Anastasio,¹ a small-scale forest extractor from Boca de Sábalos at a workshop on non-timber forest products organised in Río San Juan, Nicaragua, in 1997. Short and pithy, it reveals one of the most problematic issues in the current debate revolving around competing claims over tropical forests. In this heated arena of discussion, many conservation authorities portray the tropical forests as irreplaceable sanctuaries of biodiversity and natural scenery that should be preserved free from human interference. This view, which satisfies national and global environmental agendas, is criticised by many Third World smallholders, according...

    • 3 THE ENVIRONMENT AT THE PERIPHERY: Conflicting Discourses on the Forest in Tanimbar, Eastern Indonesia
      (pp. 51-66)
      Nicola Frost and Rachel Wrangham

      The Tanimbar Islands lie in Eastern Indonesia, far from regional and provincial centres. The few anthropological studies which have been carried out are largely structuralist accounts of kinship relations (e.g., Pauwels 1985, McKinnon 1991), and the islands’ apparent impenetrability is further enhanced by their mysterious local reputation. However, invisible as they may be in regional and anthropological accounts, in recent years they have gained an international profile as a result of the strength and endurance of reactions to an unwelcome logging concession.

      As related on a number of Internet sites the story is dramatic (see, for example, Earthaction website 1997)....

  9. Part II: Distributing Justice within Protected Landscapes

    • 4 PROTEST, CONFLICT AND LITIGATION: Dissent or Libel in Resistance to a Conservancy in North-west Namibia
      (pp. 69-86)
      Sian Sullivan

      In the last fifteen years, environmental anthropologists, environmental historians, and political ecologists have tended towards a ‘corrective and anti-colonial’ narrative (Beinart 2000: 270), drawing attention to the ways that environmental discourses can extend a ‘northern’ hegemony over independent states via donor-funded environment and development programmes (for the African context see Homewood and Rodgers 1987, Fairhead and Leach 1996, Leach and Mearns 1996). Escobar (1996: 56) argues that concepts such as ‘sustainable development’, ‘degradation’, and ‘community’ imply a ‘semiotic conquest of social life by expert discourses and economistic conceptions’. The constructed and contingent nature of these concepts and goals has been...

    • 5 ENVIRONMENTALISM IN THE SYRIAN BADIA: The Assumptions of Degradation, Protection and Bedouin Misuse
      (pp. 87-100)
      Dawn Chatty

      The SyrianBadia,¹ the vast semi-arid steppe land which makes up nearly 80 percent of the state’s land mass, has been at the heart of centuries of significant political struggle between pastoral Bedouin tribal authority and the power of the centralised state. In the early twentieth century, with the end of the Ottoman Empire and the imposition of a League of Nations Mandate, the French authorities first set about encouraging the Bedouin to govern themselves. But after finding that inter-tribal raiding and skirmishing were affecting France’s development plans, they vigorously pacified the area. For the last half of the twentieth...

    • 6 ‘ECOCIDE AND GENOCIDE’: Explorations of Environmental Justice in Lakota Sioux Country
      (pp. 101-118)
      Bornali Halder

      Social scientific analyses of the relation between power and environmental resources have proliferated during the past two decades. Research has sought to uncover the connections between political, ideological, social and environmental processes, and has variously framed such connections in terms of class, gender and race (for example, Harvey 1996, Di Chiro 1992, and Bullard 1990, respectively). Concurrent with the burgeoning concern with ecological interrelations is the interest in the processes of globalisation or internationalisation – processes that have transformed the very meaning of local in general (Harvey 1989), and local environmentalisms in particular (Nygren, this volume).¹

      Academics and activists...

    • 7 PROMOTING CONSUMPTION IN THE RAINFOREST: Global Conservation in Papua New Guinea
      (pp. 119-136)
      David M. Ellis

      In this chapter, consumption is employed as a window through which to consider inequalities of scale and power in resource use and conservation. Practices of Pawaia people in the Pio-Tura region of Papua New Guinea are compared with those of biologists working for a project to conserve biodiversity on their lands.¹ Project objectives, and the implications these might have for local and global consumption, are also discussed. The history of the paradigm of ‘conservation and development’ is considered within the context of consumption, as are the ramifications of trading in carbon credits. The case presented highlights the imbalances between different...

  10. Part III: Writing Environmentalism

    • 8 ‘WE STILL ARE SOVIET PEOPLE’: Youth Ecological Culture in the Republic of Tatarstan and the Legacy of the Soviet Union
      (pp. 139-154)
      Luna Rolle

      Resistance to the Soviet state to a great degree is articulated through the space of Russian environmentalism. As Gupta and Ferguson (1997:19) argue, any resistance to power is linked to processes of cooptation and complicity. Given the prominent role that environmental movements have played in the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, Russian environmentalism is simultaneously conservative and presses for change. This chapter deals with the structure and ethnography of a specific ecological movement in Tatarstan, a Turkic republic in the southern part of European Russia. The data for this chapter came from six weeks of fieldwork in the city...

      (pp. 155-170)
      David G. Anderson

      The tempestuous ‘transition’ in the former Soviet Union has threatened the livelihoods of people from all walks of life (Bridger and Pine 1998). Since the end of Yeltsin’s presidency, those who once crowned the status ladder, such as teachers, intellectuals and pensioners, now struggle to survive on starvation wages. Workers and civil servants in state-owned enterprises may wait months or years for back-pay in devalued currency. As the country fights a determined and increasingly desperate civil war in the Caucasus, military units in peripheral districts barter their rations and weapons for food and indifferently dismantle their barracks to heat themselves....

    • 10 CONTRASTING LANDSCAPES, CONFLICTING ONTOLOGIES: Assessing environmental conservation on Palawan Island (The Philippines)
      (pp. 171-188)
      Dario Novellino

      As a result of a flawed appeal to universal human values by conservationists, debate on environmental protection is trapped in Western categories with detrimental implications for the lives and well-being of indigenous communities. Recently the Philippine government has embraced a new discourse of caring environmentalism, much influenced by Western/Northern conceits, where these problematic categories are only strengthened and even given legal standing. Cosmologies like that of the Batak of Palawan Island can be profitably examined to help us escape these impasses of ecodiscourse (see Figure 5). Specifically, they shed light on the false dichotomy between technocentric and ecocentric environmentalism, where...

      (pp. 189-204)
      Stephen Nugent

      At first glance, the peoples of Brazilian Amazonia – Amerindians, northeastern immigrants, historical peasantries and others – appear to be the subjects of several environmentally informed development projects mobilised by state and multilateral agencies such as the World Bank. However, thirty years after the construction of the Transamazon Highway, the unfolding of the Greater Carajás Project, and other massive efforts within the Plan for National Integration (PIN), it is still unclear if these peoples have had a role beyond that of being passive bystanders.

      The Transamazon Highway, initially portrayed as a means for uniting people without land (northeasterners) and a land without...

    (pp. 205-220)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 221-226)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-228)