This panel offers anthropologists, social scientists, and conservationists an opportunity to examine constructions of narratives in conservation. It also explores the role indigeneity, positionality, and analytical approaches (to which disciplines are tethered) play in reinforcing imaginings.
Conservation is becoming as much about networks of relationships as it is about scientific observations. Increased emphasis on people-centred approaches by international agencies and donors have seen indigenous knowledge and status grow ever visible and increasingly politicised. In this wake, the construction of narratives within conservation, underpinned by imaginings of indigenous identities, can legitimise priorities, satisfy donor criteria and anchor western science to local contexts.
Within the anthropology of conservation, conservationists are criticised for the simultaneous imaginings of indigenous groups as "ecologically noble savages" - interlocuters in conservation efforts - and unrestrained users/adversaries whose symbioses with nature is a by-product of the limited scale and scope of their civilisation. Anthropologists too are guilty of imaginings: under the guise of ontological inferences, indigenous groups are portrayed as distinct, intersecting, conflicting, destroyed, and/or evolving. This panel seeks to consider these imaginings used by conservation scientists, NGOs, states, anthropologists, and indigenous groups themselves whose identities and roles as political actors have been shaped by these narratives. The structure proposed is three 90-minute sessions of four 15-minute talks and discussion, each on an indigenous activity: hunting, protected areas, and ecological knowledge. We invite papers from anthropologists, social scientists and conservationists in hopes of promoting more collaboration in an inherently transdisciplinary topic. In the spirit of the ontological turn (and Kant's Copernican turn), we also hope to encourage collective reflexivity that allows all participants to consider the analytical paradigms of their discipline as not only tools to evaluate conservation efforts, but as objects within these efforts.