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Bio-nationalism: The environmental state and the making of a vital national population

Authors: Elizabeth Lunstrum*, Boise State
Topics: Political Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Canada
Keywords: biopolitics, nationalism, state-making, conservation, political ecology, multiculturalism, race & ethnicity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual Track 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Writing on biopolitics has proliferated in recent years and has refined our understanding of the emergence and ongoing regulation of humans as a biological population. A younger body of literature has begun to extend these insights into the non-human world, examining the biopolitical regulation of human populations in their relation to the natural environment. Often remaining implicit across these interventions is the fact that it is the nation that typically defines the parameters of the population. In other words, it is routinely a national population as such that is to be regulated, cared for, propagated, and continually brought into existence. In this paper, we further develop the concept of bio-nationalism to capture this articulation of state-led biopolitics and nation-making, that is, the creation and regulation of a biological population as a national population. While this articulation will play out differently in diverse contexts, we are particularly interested in how bio-nationalism functions at the intersection of the regulation of the national (human) population in its relation to the natural environment. We ground these insights in Canadian nation-making through national and provincial parks. We illustrate how state institutions like Parks Canada and the Canadian Parks Council encourage expanded park visitorship and hence interaction with ‘Canadian nature’ as a means to propagate a vibrant, vital, economically-productive, and multicultural Canadian public. Here the goal of the environmental state is to create a neoliberal environmental subject (by creating the means for the emergence of this subject) who cares simultaneously for self, economy, environment, and nation.

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