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Customs contracts and control: decolonizing visions of the commons

Authors: Merrill (Mez) Baker-Medard*, Middlebury College
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Coastal and Marine, Historical Geography
Keywords: marine, conservation, commons, customary law
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Despite discursive and institutional commitments to “collaborative” and “community-based” programing, the goals and strategies used to advance conservation agendas remains largely top-down, preserving epistemic and material hierarchies. Drawing on ethnographic and archival data focused on marine conservation in Madagascar, this work interrogates conservation organizations use of “local customary law,” or dina to legitimize enclosing the marine commons. I trace the genealogy of dina as an institution in pre-colonial and colonial literature. In doing so I argue that conservation organizations use of dina parallels colonial efforts to extract and render concrete natural resource use processes and practices that are dynamic and do not always align with Western conservation ideology.

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