Uncomfortable bedfellows? Exploring the contradictory nature of the ecotourism/extraction nexus
Veronica Davidov (Monmouth University)
Bram B├╝scher (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Thursday 12 July, 11:30-13:15, 14:30-16:15, Friday 13 July, 9:00-10:45 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

How can we understand seemingly contradictory situations where ecotourism and natural resource extraction occur side-by-side? And how can we go about studying them, when they are currently constructed and perceived as mutually exclusive alternatives, rather than (un)comfortable bedfellows?

Long abstract:

Campo Ma'an National Park bordering the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline. Indigenous eco-lodges in Ecuador's "oil patch." Eco-destinations minutes away from quarries in Northern Russia. Oil exploration in Zambia's Luangwe National Park. How can we understand these seemingly contradictory situations where ecotourism and natural resource extraction occur side-by-side, sometimes even supported by the same institutions? And how can we study them? So far, ecotourism is primarily perceived and studied as an alternative to resource extraction, while studies of resource extraction generally do not include ecotourism projects that may exist in the vicinity of the extraction sites. Existing academic and policy literatures privilege oppositions and transitions between "sustainable" and "unsustainable" development, over congruencies and synergies, which could reveal the uncertainties, contradictions and fluidities inherent in this polarization. Because of this framing bias, the phenomenon of ecotourism in areas concurrently affected by extraction industries (oil production, mining, logging), remains understudied, even though such a scenario is increasingly common in resource-rich developing nations.

We invite papers that contribute to destabilizing the normative production of knowledge which positions extraction and ecotourism as mutually exclusive alternatives, rather than (un)comfortable bedfellows. In the workshop, we will critically reflect on why these two phenomena are systematically decoupled, and epistemologically and analytically re-link them through engaging with ethnographic case studies in the political-economic context of late capitalism. Through an integrated discussion of these empirical cases, we endeavour to theorize the possibilities for anthropologists to study resource extraction and ecotourism as a nexus.