About this Research Topic
Large-scale displacement of human settlements from Protected Areas (PAs) has accelerated in the 21st century as countries in the global South expand their networks of terrestrial and marine Protected Areas to meet global biodiversity policy targets. Meanwhile, due to ambiguous conservation outcomes associated with community-based conservation, demands for exclusionary conservation have seen a revival – exacerbated by the crises of climate change, mass extinctions and most recently the COVID19 pandemic. A key feature of these new conservation approaches is the emphasis on ‘voluntary’ relocation of people from PAs.
First-generation conservation displacement studies (1980-1995) lay within the techno-managerialist tradition of seeking the win-win solution of exclusionary PAs with proper compensation to conservation refugees. Meanwhile the populist literature of this era highlighted problematic binaries between state and society, western and indigenous knowledge, coercion and participation, and ‘fortress’ versus ‘community’ conservation, binaries that challenge the ‘win-win’ nature of these solutions. Second generation research in conservation displacement pushed these analyses further by building on critical and interdisciplinary approaches like political ecology, political economy, environmental history and critical agrarian studies. This work focuses on themes like green-grabbing, neoliberal conservation and militarized conservation, and as such shows the complex underpinnings of displacements caused by conservation agendas.
However, several key gaps can be identified in the critical literature on conservation displacement. Empirically, studies by scholars from the global North in Africa and Southeast Asia dominate the literature, while relatively less work is available by scholars from the South, and work on South Asia and Latin America is comparatively lacking. Theoretically, there is the need to look beyond coercion and militarization to focus on the everyday processes and hegemonic practices through which the massive territorializing project of PAs takes place globally. Control over vast swathes of land has shifted from developmental agencies of the state, to agencies engaged in forestry and wildlife protection, which share a vexed history since the colonial era. These resource governance agencies are often notoriously hostile towards resident communities. In particular, the use of ‘voluntary’ relocation from PAs as a policy solution needs to be examined critically. Methodologically, literature on conservation actors has tended to focus on the affected communities, the national state, and global conservation NGOs, and less on sub-national and local actors and their cross-scale linkages, alliances and contestations. Yet it is these alliances wherein possibilities for resistance to, or new forms of coercive practices for acceptance of conservation areas lie.
This Research Topic seeks to address these gaps in the literature by welcoming studies of conservation displacement that critically examine and problematize notions of coercion, volition, participation, collective action and resistance, and those that examine intra-state contestations and the complex interface of the state with the local community, the judiciary and local/regional non-state actors (research and advocacy organizations, conservation NGOs, the media, individual activists and others). We encourage a third generation of conservation scholars who empirically and conceptually probe the realignments of state-society, nature- society and community relations that conservation displacement projects catalyze.
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