Contested mappings in a dynamic space: reshaping socio-ecological and spatial identities in the context of REDD+. A case from the Democratic Republic of Congo

Authors: Catherine Windey*, University of Antwerp
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Environmental Perception, Cartography
Keywords: Space, mappings, REDD+, eco-functional nature, material-discursive practices
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Galerie 4, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) framework has gained increased attention and financing over the last ten years. Inspired by Science and Technology Studies, this paper explores actors’ discourses, tools and strategies of REDD+ in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and how they are implemented and contested at multiple levels. Despite being portrayed as an innovative market-, carbon-, and forest- centred mechanism, in the DRC, REDD+ has rather been framed as a classical landscape approach to rationalizing land use and tenure. In particular land mapping, in the context of weak state institutions, is analysed in this paper as a REDD+ material-discursive practice that serves the unchanging (post-)colonial purpose of settling people and their socio-economic activities in order to create productive and governable landscapes. Using findings from a multi-level ethnographic research, we argue that this particular philosophy of space performs the world in specific ways through the creation of boundaries that transform the meaning of land and ‘nature’ highlighting its economic value to the detriment of its holistic values. We show how mapping tends to create static and abstract socio-spatial identities and how it is appropriated and reworked in contestation with a dynamic customary system characterized by multiplicity, ambiguity and complexity. Ultimately, by looking at mapping practices and more largely REDD+ as relational and negotiation processes this paper shows how they are constantly (re)shaped to respond to multiple stakeholders’ interests to assert their rights to land and forest resources.

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