Anthropology and Conservation On-line Conference Oct 25th- 29th

Royal Anthropology Institute

To register:

This is not a free conference and cheapest tickets are 30.00 for concessions, eg students, low income, retired. Nevertheless, the amount of sessions is enormous and one does not know where to begin choosing among all the interesting sessions. I am doing a paper at the conference but feel somewhat dwarfed by the magnitude of the event- I will be a drop in a very large ocean! However, I hope that my paper will make some contribution to what has become a huge discipline in anthropology.

My session is on Monday, the 25th within the panel called:

Positionality beyond ‘People versus Parks’: Anthropologists’ Engagement with Conservation in the 21st Century

Session Monday Oct 25th 15:00-16:50


Pauline von Hellermann (Goldsmiths)
Clate Korsant (John Jay College of Criminal Justice CUNY)

Sian Sullivan (Bath Spa University)

We are beyond ‘people versus parks’. Conservation, communities and anthropology have all changed considerably, making it less clear what ‘position’ anthropologists should or can take. This panel invites papers exploring new challenges, opportunities and ethical dilemmas in the field and in writing.

For anthropologists doing research in conservation areas, our ‘position’ used to be fairly straightforward: when the creation of new National Parks (etc) involved the exclusion of local groups, our role, if not explicit, was to advocate for the rights and livelihoods of local people. By now, however, many factors have complicated this well-known ‘people versus parks’ scenario. ‘The people’ can no longer be imagined as a cohesive interest group (if indeed they ever could). Local actors have multiple and often opposing allegiances and interests between them, including armed loggers and drug traffickers as well environmental activists. And although area protection has largely remained conservation’s core principle, ‘the park’, too, can be many different things: commanding areas and resources of vastly different scale, ranging from large, heavily militarised ‘fortress conservation’ operations to small community conservation projects with varying degrees of local involvement and ‘success’. Radically new conservation models such as Büscher and Fletcher’s (post-capitalist, post nature/culture dichotomy) ‘convivial conservation’ are also making headway. Meanwhile, anthropology itself has embraced explicit applied and activist engagement as well beyond-human, multi-species approaches that further complicate ‘people’ allegiances, all-the-while grappling both with the imperial roots it shares with conservation and the climate and ecological emergency.

In this context this panel invites papers exploring positionality: reflections on difficult fieldwork experiences, decisions and ethics, and on new ways of researching and writing anthropologically (and ethically) about conservation. We also welcome contributions by anthropologists who may themselves have become conservationists or vice versa.


Bonnie VandeSteeg: Land for What? Land for Whom? Conflict in the Cairngorms of Scotland (

The Cairngorm National Park was established in 2003 after years of negotiation and discussion, often quite acrimonious, between a wide range or groups and individuals both inside and outside the designated area. My research took place during 1999-2000 (with regular return visits), which was towards the end of the debate about the funicular and at the beginning of the national park consultation. It was a difficult time because the area had already seen intense conflict over the building of the funicular railway and various ‘sides’ had been established in opposition to each other.

My aim was to explore how different senses of place- conservation, livelihood and recreation- develop into public conflicts, seemingly unresolvable and to consider whether such conflicts are inevitable because of these entrenched perspectives.

This paper examine how these conflicts manifested themselves and then go on to show that they are not inevitable. There is much common ground between the different interest groups and that land can be managed for conservation, livelihood and recreation objectives. However, what needs to change is how decisions about land are made and who has the power.

Clate Korsant (John Jay College of Criminal Justice CUNY)

As Costa Rica’s southwest becomes an increasingly viable path for narcotrafficking, tensions have risen among research participants that carry dangerous implications. For many, narcotrafficking and environmentalism present vastly different but interconnected political economies.

Natalia Guerrero

Based on a conflict involving riverine communities from the Xingu River basin, Brazilian Amazonia, where legal instruments called “commitment agreements” have recently been discussed and implemented, this paper debates the relationship between environmental policies and territorial rights.

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