Exploring how environmental anthropologists can act as mediators between local communities, governments and conservation organisations to foster new collaborative approaches to conservation that are mutually beneficial for humans and ecosystems.
Protected areas have historically been established in accordance with a fortress model of conservation, premised upon the construction of pristine 'wilderness' spaces and the top-down regulation of human activity. A growing body of literature, however, has called for greater scholarly engagement with the human dimensions of nature conservation, and in particular, the socio-economic and spiritual impacts of protected area formation on local communities. In communities that are affected by conservation operations, both inside of protected areas, and outside of their boundaries, community-members often still feel responsible for maintaining proper stewardship over their traditional territories. Conservationist rhetoric consistently stresses the importance of respecting traditional ecological knowledge and indigenous peoples' territorial rights, yet many protected areas worldwide continue to undermine the livelihoods of local communities through scientifically informed conservation regulations. Nonetheless, current movements towards community-based models of conservation offer hope and insight. This panel will present ways in which anthropologists can facilitate collaboration between local communities, governments and conservation organisations to promote better protected area governance and management. It will explore themes such as the potential for friction, overlap and cross-pollination of ideas between conservation stakeholders with contrasting worldviews and relationships with nature, inter-stakeholder communication and knowledge-sharing, and the various ways that stakeholders mobilize their interests in relation to conservation goals. Ultimately, this panel aims to address how anthropologists can act as mediators who, informed and sensitized by ethnographic research with local communities, can foster the growth of new collaborative approaches to conservation that are mutually beneficial for humans and ecosystems.