EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

"Green policies" and people living inside European protected areas
Location U6-22
Date and Start Time 23 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Oana Ivan (Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj Napoca) email
  • Jose Antonio Cortes Vazquez (University of A Coruña) email

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Short Abstract

Top-down "green" EU policy and neoliberal development dramatically affect people living in or near EU protected areas. We invite ethnographic contributions that explore the resulting socio-environmental issues and ways in which traditional ecological knowledge might be integrated in future programs.

Long Abstract

The relationships between "nature" and "culture" have long been interrogated from different perspectives, with environmental anthropology raising the issues of power, traditional ecological knowledge, loss of biocultural diversity, to name just a few. People living inside, or near, protected areas have been of particular interest: their ways of coping have been dramatically challenged by new institutions and international regulations. Neoliberal ideologies and politics are often blamed for environmental degradation and conflict in protected areas worldwide. However, a paucity of research in Europe, particularly, its eastern areas, means that environmental issues of these countries are less well examined and understood.

The European Union is dramatically (re)shaping landscapes and local cultures through its "green policies", conceived in Brussels, often thousands of kilometers away from the communities intended to follow the environmental rules and regulations. This panel welcomes ethnographic contributions that explore how traditional ecological knowledge might be integrated in future policy-making and how communities living in, or near, national parks, biosphere reserves, or other protected areas respond to neoliberal "green" developments and EU policies. How did people live before the EU and how are its rules changing local cultures? Are there grassroots movements and are they colliding with top-down State approaches? Is post-socialism/communism still a factor and, if so, how are post-socialist communities different from those living in the "well established democratic western Europe"? What are other catalysts of landscape change of protected areas - tourism, mass-media, internet?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


The question of the Commons in Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês (Portugal): conflicts, resistance and creativity

Author: Humberto Martins (UTAD)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses the various ways through which dwellers of the Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês use their commons, proposing to look at their creative and adaptive responses (considering both environmental and economic constraints and opportunities).

Long Abstract

Protected Areas are not consensual landscapes but disputed territories considering uses and interests (not only human). Through ethnographic material collected over the last 15 years I present a scenario of diversity in resource appropriation and creative responses in which dichotomic and simplistic oppositions must be questioned. Protected Areas are not only public arenas in which environmentalists and local communities dispute their views. What I have seen is a more complex situation in which individuals according to their own life histories (including their lifelong ecological knowledge) and their actualizing interests (economic, emotional, institutional…) give their own contribution for what is the social and natural life of a National Park. Commons as a collective resource and value are a critical part of these processes. Their traditional functions (for pastures, cattle-breeding, manure, wood…) are being replaced by new ones (basically related to the touristic usufruct and energy production) while new demands for the reenactment of old functions are required by scientific projects and expertise (e.g. as wild fire barriers or as ecological balancers). Afterwards the point is not to establish a temporal frontier between a then and a now but mainly to argue on conflictive but coexistent uses of the commons in which local dwellers are able to affirm their own and integrated contribution for a balanced ecosystem; i.e. as indispensable parts of the European protected landscapes and habitats.

Neorurals and natural protected areas in post-crisis-neoliberal Europe: new subjects, new values, and new conflicts.

Author: Jose Antonio Cortes Vazquez (University of A Coruña)  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at the changes affecting neorural communities living in natural protected areas in the south of Europe, following the impact that the 2008 economic crisis has had on nature conservation policies

Long Abstract

The economic and political upheaval created by the 2008 economic crisis has deeply affected conservation policies in natural protected areas (NPAs) in Europe. This is having deep implications for the people living in NPAs. Among them, there is one social group that have received specially little attention, despite the important role that they play in nature conservation: neorural inhabitants. On one hand, utopian and amenity migrations have historically been linked to the designation of NPAs and their urban ideas of a 'natural idyll' have inspired much conservation planning. On the other hand, neorural groups have usually encountered opposition from other local groups with dissimilar interests and lifestyles, which make them an essential component in the study of people-park conflicts.

In this paper I analyse how the economic crisis has affected neorural groups in NPAs in the south of Spain. I look at a two key elements: New forms of neoliberal environmentality, brought about by neoliberal public policies; and new environmental knowledges and values that derive from the commoditisation of protected nature. I analyse both elements vis-à-vis a number of new disputes and alliances that are transforming the social milieu of NPAs. These disputes involve old neorurals (who moved to protected areas in a pre-crisis context in search of a natural idyll), newcomers (neorurals that have just moved to these locations in a post-crisis context in search of a job in the growing green economy), and other local communities (farmers, fishermen, shepherds…)

The "glorious", communist past and the "green", ecologic present: the Danube Delta fishing communities and their natural resource management

Author: Oana Ivan (Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj Napoca)  email

Short Abstract

After becoming a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1991, the Danube Delta fishing communities experience an acute social and environmental degradation due to weak law enforcement and marginalization of local knowledge and participation.

Long Abstract

In 1991, the Danube Delta, the largest marshland in Europe, famous for its biodiversity, became a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Due to this designation, new regulations concerning local use of the environment have been imposed by the Romanian government and the European Union. Relying on participant observation, in-depth interviews and oral histories as main research methods, this paper scrutinizes from a cultural anthropologic perspective the changes occurred in the local patterns of natural resource use before (1880s-1950s), during (1960s-1980s) and after communism (1989). The findings discusses how the resource exploitation of Danube Delta has been under constant transformation, from capitalist system, to communist one, and back to capitalism combined with "green" policies today.

The second part of the research focuses on the present practices pointing to the locals' perceptions of the environmental discourse. The rigid top-down approach excludes locals from management and participation. Furthermore, it seems that personal agenda of the authorities weights more than the rule of law, and therefore locals from the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve see democracy and environmental protection rules as a means for people in key positions to have a monopoly over the highly valued resources of the protected areas, which they profit from in illicit ways.

Consequently, the present research argues that due to the new environmental policy-making, that systematically ignored the local participation, and due to the weak law enforcement in the context of post-communist context, the fishing communities living inside this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve experience an acute social and environmental degradation today.

Ecologies of citizenship: reviving rastoralism in the Polish Carpathians

Authors: Nicolette Makovicky (University of Oxford )  email
Pawel Sendyka (Jagiellonian University)  email

Short Abstract

Focusing on transhumant pastoralism in the Polish Carpathians, this paper highlights the tensions which exist between Polish and European policy-makers’ visions of sustainability, and vernacular perceptions of agency amongst the Highland pastoralists themselves.

Long Abstract

Focusing on contemporary transhumant pastoralism in the Western Polish Carpathians, this paper examines how discourses of environmental conservation, rural development, and 'best practice' are negotiated, appropriated, or rejected by shepherds, bureaucrats, and civic actors. Pastoralism in the area is supported by a complex European Union policy framework, which is itself structured by high-order international environmental charters, most notably Natura 2000. Shepherds benefit from Common Agricultural Policy support for transhumant livestock management in the form of direct payments, and subsidies funnelled through regionally managed environmental programmes which favour protection over output, stressing biodiversity conservation and sustainable land use. Those who graze their sheep in protected areas face additional restrictions and regulations (but also certain financial advantages). Focusing on shepherds working in national forests and parks, as well as several existing public-private partnerships designed to promote the use of highland pasture and the production of specialist cheeses, the presentation will throw light on the tensions which exist between Polish and European policy-makers' visions of economic and environmental sustainability, and vernacular perceptions of identity and agency amongst the Highland pastoralists themselves. I argue that policy-maker's tendency to rely on 'organizational citizens' to voice the concerns of pastoral communities and practitioners creates certain silences and omissions. Firstly, it ignores the limitations created by neoliberal funding parameters and an uncertain post-socialist fiscal environment. Secondly, it fails to recognize the possible value of pre-existing institutional infrastructures and local traditions of collective action.

Neoliberal biodiversity conservation and local responses in Southern Carpathian Mountains in Romania

Author: George Iordachescu (School of Advanced Studies IMT Lucca, Italy)  email

Short Abstract

The aim of this paper is to explore the struggles of local communities of Southern Carpathian Mountains in Romania with the neoliberal biodiversity conservationist agenda.

Long Abstract

In the last decade the forests and pastures of Southern Carpathian Mountains in Romania became a highly conflictual terrain.

Supported by international philanthropists, a foreign foundation has bought thousands hectares of forest, gained the custody of three Natura2000 areas and succeeded against the law to acquire shares in some communal property associations. The clash between global and regional strategies of capitalism accumulation created geographies of exclusion in which the historically precarious and racial segregated groups were banned access to resources which barely supported their minimal subsistence needs.

In this paper I explore the local actors' coping mechanism and struggles with the conservationist agenda, trying not to fall into the trap of reifying the communities which live inside or near the protected areas.

I see this current green agenda as a primitive accumulation process in which nature is channeled from benefitting the poor to benefitting the rich. The foundation committed to preserve a romantic and pristine nature, building a narrative that does not take into account the historical co-production of the local communities (forestry-led industrial past, big dams projects in socialism, mono-species planted-forests and traditional pastoralism). Besides developing massive projects of ecosystems restoration the foundation engages in eco-tourism enterprises in line with the western fantasies which see this type of tourism as a sustainable non-consumptive activity.

The aim of this paper is to explore the genesis, the manifestations and the consequences of the clashes between neoliberal conservationist agendas and local livelihoods

"No peasants here, please": the homologation of the Italian countryside from modernism to conservation

Author: Fabrizio Frascaroli (University of Zurich)  email

Short Abstract

EU conservation schemes, while broader in scale, continue trends long underway in parts of Europe. Through examples from Italy, I unpack the ideological contiguity with previous processes of modernistic homologation of the countryside, and discuss possible directions for future intervention.

Long Abstract

In this paper, I explore the idea that EU-inspired conservation schemes, although more impactful in scale, are a continuation of broader trends long underway in parts of Europe. Drawing examples from Italy, I argue that these policies are indeed the latest stage in historical processes of modernistic regulation and cultural homologation of the countryside. Over the centuries, these processes have hinged on the predatory supremacy of urban centers at the expense of rural peripheries. Successively, they have found legitimization in scientific ideologies that idolize a supposed state of nature without humans, and in naive views of tourism as a passe-partout to economic development. In recent years, colonization of the countryside has enjoyed ideological support almost from the entire political spectrum, including environmental parties. The most common outcome has been a rapid loss of cultural heritage and productive spaces, while the expected benefits have been slow in being delivered: once functional links to the landscape are removed, establishing tourist circuits and other activities reveals more problematic than initially assumed.

I conclude that, in virtue of this intricate background, a multifocal approach is needed to try to redress current EU's "green" policies. In particular, closer collaborations with biologists can help deconstruct the myth that ecosystems without humans are necessarily more "natural" and desirable. Most important, however, will be that rural and marginal populations can rely on appropriate political representation: all attempts at democratizing land management and governance across Europe are bound to fail without this first step.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.