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Between nature and culture: exploring space for indigenous agency in the Convention on Biological Diversity
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science. (Arcum)
2013 (English)In: Environmental Politics, ISSN 0964-4016, E-ISSN 1743-8934, Vol. 22, no 6, 992-1009 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The goals of nature conservation have changed over the last decades, but setting aside areas for nature protection is still a major part of environmental efforts globally. Protected areas often include traditional lands of indigenous peoples, and although indigenous rights have been strengthened through international treaties, conflicts over land entitlement are still common. I analyse indigenous peoples' role in nature conservation, focusing on the discursive construction of indigenous subject position in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and using post-colonial theory to situate the discussion in its historical and political context, discussing what subject positions are made available to indigenous people, and what political agency they can be assumed to entail. The analysis shows that limits to indigenous space for agency are embedded in the Convention on Biological Diversity discourse – the analysed texts present a narrow recognition of indigenous people's role in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity, with a heavy focus on indigenous subjects as holders of traditional knowledge, and a clear influence from colonial notions and post-colonial power relations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2013. Vol. 22, no 6, 992-1009 p.
Keyword [en]
conservation, protected areas, CBD, indigenous, discourse, post-colonial
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-60964DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2012.737255OAI: diva2:565043
Indigenous rights and nature conservation
Swedish Research Council Formas
Available from: 2012-11-06 Created: 2012-11-06 Last updated: 2016-05-26Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Nature, culture, rights: exploring space for indigenous agency in protected area discourses
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Nature, culture, rights: exploring space for indigenous agency in protected area discourses
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Natur, kultur, rättigheter : urfolks handlingsutrymme i naturskyddsdiskurser
Abstract [en]

There is considerable geographical overlap between areas set aside for nature conservation or protection and Indigenous peoples’ lands, and the social, economic, and political consequences of protected areas have often been extensive for Indigenous peoples. Discourses of conservation converge with discourses of Indigenous peoples, and both carry a legacy of colonial constructs and relationships. With these overlaps as a point of departure, the purpose of this thesis is to explore how the discourses that govern nature conservation and protected areas shape the conditions for Indigenous peoples’ influence and participation in the governance and management of protected areas on their lands. I pursue this aim by analyzing, and critically examining the consequences of, the construction of Indigenous subject positions and conditions for agency in discourses of nature conservation and protected areas. The empirical focus of the thesis lies with international discourses of protected areas and Indigenous peoples and on local and national discourses articulated in relation to two cases of protected areas in Sápmi. My analytical framework builds on postcolonial theory and discourse theory. I use space for agency as a concept to describe and analyze the effects of the discursive positionings and constructions that shape the ability or capacity of individuals or group to act or to be perceived as legitimate actors.

My results show twomain articulations of Indigenous subject positions in protected area discourses, which enable and restrain the space for Indigenous agency in different ways. One articulation connects Indigenous peoples to conservation through the concept of traditional knowledge, thereby positioning Indigenous subjects mainly as holders of traditional knowledge and justifying Indigenous influence by its potential contribution to conservation objectives. The other articulation focuses on the rights pertaining to Indigenous peoples as peoples, including land rights and the right to selfdetermination. These articulations are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but they have potentially different consequences and indicate discursive tensions that can affect the space for Indigenous agency in relation to protected areas. Moreover, my results demonstrate the hegemony of discourses that takes conservation through area protection for granted and subordinates Indigenous land use to conservation objectives, structure Indigenous agency as “participation” in specific types of arrangement, and articulate Indigenous rights in relation to hegemonic constructions of sovereignty, self-determination, and rights. These hegemonic formations silence articulations that would challenge the authority of colonizing societies over Indigenous territories, suppress radical critique of the fundamental nature of arrangements for protected area governance and management, and subdue alternatives to discourses of contemporary liberal democracy and individual property rights.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2015. 85 p.
Statsvetenskapliga institutionens skriftserie, ISSN 0349-0831 ; 2015:4
Protected areas, conservation, biological diversity, heritage, Indigenous peoples, Indigenous rights, Sami, discourse, postcolonial theory, participation, agency, Skyddade områden, naturvård, biologisk mångfald, världsarv, urfolk, urfolksrättigheter, samer, diskurs, postkolonial teori, deltagande, handlingsutrymme
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-110737 (URN)978-91-7601-362-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-11-27, Hörsal D, Lindellhallen, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2015-11-06 Created: 2015-10-27 Last updated: 2016-08-17Bibliographically approved

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