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Positionality beyond 'People versus Parks': Anthropologists' Engagement with Conservation in the 21st Century 
Pauline von Hellermann (Goldsmiths)
Clate Korsant (John Jay College of Criminal Justice CUNY)
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Sian Sullivan (Bath Spa University)
Monday 25 October, 15:00-16:30

Short Abstract:

We are beyond 'people versus parks'. Conservation, communities and anthropology have all changed considerably, making it less clear what 'position' anthropologists should or can take. This panel invites papers exploring new challenges, opportunities and ethical dilemmas in the field and in writing.

Long Abstract

For anthropologists doing research in conservation areas, our 'position' used to be fairly straightforward: when the creation of new National Parks (etc) involved the exclusion of local groups, our role, if not explicit, was to advocate for the rights and livelihoods of local people. By now, however, many factors have complicated this well-known 'people versus parks' scenario. 'The people' can no longer be imagined as a cohesive interest group (if indeed they ever could). Local actors have multiple and often opposing allegiances and interests between them, including armed loggers and drug traffickers as well environmental activists. And although area protection has largely remained conservation's core principle, 'the park', too, can be many different things: commanding areas and resources of vastly different scale, ranging from large, heavily militarised 'fortress conservation' operations to small community conservation projects with varying degrees of local involvement and 'success'. Radically new conservation models such as Büscher and Fletcher's (post-capitalist, post nature/culture dichotomy) 'convivial conservation' are also making headway. Meanwhile, anthropology itself has embraced explicit applied and activist engagement as well beyond-human, multi-species approaches that further complicate 'people' allegiances, all-the-while grappling both with the imperial roots it shares with conservation and the climate and ecological emergency.

In this context this panel invites papers exploring positionality: reflections on difficult fieldwork experiences, decisions and ethics, and on new ways of researching and writing anthropologically (and ethically) about conservation. We also welcome contributions by anthropologists who may themselves have become conservationists or vice versa.

Accepted papers:

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