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Within a Southeast Asian context, this panel will assess the complexity and multiplicity of local voices and indigenous communities responses being deployed to ensure ecological and cultural integrity of their territories, especially in relation to threats from conservation and development schemes.
Indigenous resource management strategies are often opposed and/or seen as a solution to strict and top down conservation schemes being proposed by large environmental NGOs and governments alike. Similarly, recognition and enactment of customary rights is generally perceived as effective means for countering expansion of large scale development schemes. Although these assumptions might prove to be correct, indigenous and local communities' responses to conservation and development programmes cannot be seen as a panacea to environmental protection. Such responses, in fact, are continuously adjusted over time to socio-political and environmental changes, are shaped by contingencies of the moment and by opportunistic choices not necessary free from factionalism, political alliances and other factors. Within a Southeast Asian context, the authors of this panel aim at assessing the complexity and multiplicity of local voices and indigenous communities responses and coping strategies which are being deployed by the people to ensure the ecological and cultural integrity of their territories, especially in relation to threats posed by large-scale conservation and development schemes, transitional biocultural zones, etc. Our contention is that communities' micro-responses to these external factors may vary greatly from region to region and their assessment requires, not only an in-depth understanding of particular political and legislative contexts, but also of international processes and hegemonic global discourses. We believe that the assessment and comparison of this information within the specific geo-political milieu of Southeast Asia may provide best lessons for both advocacy and conservation, while adding new stimulus to current anthropological debate over these issues.