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Accepted Paper:

The ontological politics of 'post-conflict' territories of life in the conservation of the Colombian high Andean páramos  

Author:

Camilo Castillo (Linköping University)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I analyze how the conservation of páramos in Colombia assemble scientific practices and conservation policies that exclude communities and their territories of life. It also contributes to the reconstruction of conservation from scientific practices and local communities ontologies.

Paper long abstract:

Páramos are among the most important ecosystems of the northern Andes in South America. The provision of water for millions of people there depends on these unique mountains, which are also the refuge for a rich biodiversity. That is the case in Colombia, where páramos encompass a variety of relationships: as 'Islands of the sky' for biologists, or 'biodiversity hotspots' in conservation agendas, but also as a 'territory' for campesino communities that found in these remote mountains a safe place after fleeing and suffering political violence in the 19th and 20th centuries. The need to protect páramos is uncontroversial, but the attempts to do it has been conflictive.

Once the Colombian government tried to regulate the conservation of páramos through GIS tools and biological samplings, it was clear that the páramo of the policy was not compatible with the presence of campesinos, despite they have been there for generations cultivating their territories. Since then, campesinos have been in a struggle to defend their territories and life projects from conservation agendas that do not recognize their ontologies based in a relationality with plants, animals, tools, knowledges and a shared history in the high mountains. In this paper I analyze how the conservation of páramos in Colombia assemble scientific practices and conservation policies that disproportionally affect historically excluded communities and their relational ontologies. It also interrogates about the possibility to reconstruct an environmentally just conservation attentive to scientific practices and campesino's ontologies beyond the limits of modern western environmental politics.

Panel P043a
Territories of Life: Wellsprings of Biocultural Relationship and Resurgence