Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Threat Economies and Armed Conservation in CAR

I've been working on several articles that explore threats as a kind of performative speech act. The first, looking at threats and hiding in the case of armed conservation, is now published. (A second one, on threats and rebellion, is in review-process purgatory.) It's available here; if you don't have access to the journal, email me and I can send a copy. 

The gist is that critical academic accounts of conservation often emphasize its coerciveness in relation to people living in and around parklands. And while that's an important point to draw out, my research in northeastern CAR complicates that picture. Because even though CAR has arguably been among the places where conservation has been most violent, a wide range of people -- including peasants -- were able to effectively threaten each other in order to claim entitlements, particularly entitlements to the status of an income. 

Read it, and tell me what you think!

Full abstract follows...

This article, based on ethnographic and archival research in the northeastern parklands of the Central African Republic (CAR), explores the area’s history of armed conservation. Critical scholarly accounts of armed conservation practices and projects often starkly contrast the people involved in them: there are agents of the state, or state-like actors, who seek to dominate, territorialize, and discipline, often using violence to do so, and there are local populations who are dispossessed of their lands and resources without compensation and forced into new kinds of poverty, despite rhetoric and practices meant to inculcate “local participation”. The case presented here forces us to re-think these accounts. Rather than pursuing authority in the sense of expanding control over other people, people in northeastern CAR (whether putatively in favor of or opposed to conservation) are working to create and maintain access to the status of an income. To do so they engage in practices of threatening and hiding. While the means to use physical force are not equally shared, capacities to threaten and hide are widely held, and organizational and other hierarchies are unstable, making it difficult to describe any of this as a matter of domination and resistance. Expanding on literature that examines processes of green militarization (Lunstrum, 2014), the article focuses on the interactional dynamics of armed conservation to show that threats are as important as acts of physical violence, and that hiding—whether in the bush or plain sight—is critical to understanding armed conservation in an area where the state is largely seen as absent.

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