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The Cultural Politics of Nature Conservation: Producing and Reproducing Social Identities in Nepal’s Protected Areas

Authors: Yogesh Dongol*, Florida International University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Human-Environment Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Political Ecology, Cultural Politics, Nature Conservation, Identity, Social inequalities, Nepal
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The relationship of nature conservation and modern social identities such as race, gender, caste, class, and national identity has become one of the major strands of investigation in the political ecology of conservation. Political ecological scholars have shown the importance of everyday material practices and the discursive representation of nature, people and practices in the co-construction of nature and difference. Drawing on the cultural politics of nature conservation, I ask how social exclusion and dominance of ethnic and caste groups are maintained and contested in the work of conservation and development. This paper examines the struggle between different groups over meanings of conservation and development and everyday practices and performances through a long-term ethnographic study in two buffer villages of Nepal's Chitwan National Park. The study shows the discourses of conservation, competence, and criminality in shaping social difference and authority and simultaneously the rights over forest use and management. I argue that these local processes of socioeconomic dominance are shaped by or reflect broader social and political struggle over territorial rights and authority.

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