Ethnography across Epistemologies in Conservation Practice

Authors: Elizabeth Shoffner*, University of Washington
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Latin America, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: conservation, decoloniality, relational epistemologies, Latin America
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Bayside B, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the face of settler-colonial states whose conservation practices are incongruent with Indigenous world-making practices, and the increasing role of non-governmental organizations in creating private conservation reserves, conservation practice often appears antithetical to decolonization. Yet collaborative conservation projects afford an opportunity to examine how practices—and ontologies—interact: how they extend or intensify the colonial disciplining of indigenous bodies, practice, and knowledges, or the spaces they open for shifting Western scientific paradigms of conservation practice, whether through alliance or subversion. These collaborations become particularly interesting when they involve NGOs with stated commitments to science and biodiversity, as their priorities with respect to land management--and the production of conservation subjects--may differ widely from those of the states in which they operate. This research looks at the limits and possibilities of conservation in the Upper Río Uruguay borderlands across indigenous and non-indigenous communities in Argentina in Brazil, in their interactions with state and non-state institutions of environmental governance. I am particularly interested in considering how a methodological approach grounded in relational epistemologies might produce an ethnography of inter-epistemic encounter in conservation management.

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