Accepted paper:

Legal pluralism in the wild: rules of encounter and their effects on imaginings and practices of wilderness


Katarina Altshul (University of Ljubljana)

Paper short abstract:

Using an ethnographic example of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, the paper explores the co-existence of two sets of principles relating to the management and use of wilderness areas, and how they affect the imaginings and practices of wilderness as a specific place and space.

Paper long abstract:

The paper presents the co-existence of two sets of principles which define the scope of management and public use of a protected area which has been designated as a wilderness area. The first set of principles in question concerns the concept of "minimum requirements", which is an exception stemming from the Wilderness Act of 1964 (Section 4(c)) and has been further defined through guidelines that are the joint efforts of wilderness managing governmental agencies and interest groups. The second set is the "Leave No Trace" principles, the origin of which can be traced back to wilderness advocates in the 60s, 70s and 80s, but were also appropriated by the governmental agencies when teaching visitors to these areas on how to behave. Conflicts arising from the opposition of the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System and the wilderness designation are discussed in relation to these rules. Examples of activities that are being undertaken on the refuge illustrate how these two sets of principles affect imaginings of the area as well as movement within the refuge, whereby movement is understood as a spatial tactics occurring at the level of individual visitors to such areas, and as one of the crucial practices in the processes of 'wildernization', a term the author derives from van Loon's (2002) 'spatialization'.

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