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Everyday life in a South Indian tiger reserve

Authors: Shruthi Jagadeesh*, University of Colorado, Boulder
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Human-Environment Geography, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: Conservation, Tiger reserve, Political ecology, India, Soliga
Session Type: Paper
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Tiger reserves in India are spaces of concentrated conservation focus and effort. Borrowing from both colonial views and laws as well from global conservation practices, India’s protected areas are governed by centralized legal mechanisms that have largely viewed local communities as a threat to conservation. Along with these exclusionary laws, there have been several attempts at community-based conservation, including the Forest Rights Act (FRA), enacted in 2006, which grants land titles, access and management rights to forest dwellers. Yet these policy changes have been introduced alongside existing (and often contradictory) governance structures, resulting in multiple institutions acting together to influence the practicalities of everyday lives. What are the lived experiences of these multiple conservation apparatuses and how do they shape livelihoods, local aspirations and the functioning of decentralised governance? This paper addresses this question with regards to Soliga tribe in the Biligiri Ranganathaswamy Hills (BR Hills) Temple tiger reserve in South India. BR Hills is one of few tiger reserves where communities have received rights under the FRA. Reflecting on interviews and participant observation, including of meetings conducted in BR Hills in the summer of 2019, this paper focuses on everyday lives within a protected area apparatus, as well as navigating fieldwork in spaces where state presence is always felt. With a focus on young adult experiences, this paper explores the ways in which power and scale interact to produce and configure specific governance structures that have implications, material or otherwise, for life in protected areas.

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