A review of the social impacts of neoliberal conservation: Formations, inequalities, contestations


In recent years, perhaps the two most prominent debates in geography on issues of biodiversity conservation have hinged upon, firstly, the positive and negative social impacts of conservation projects on human populations, and, secondly, the apparent neoliberalisation of conservation. Yet so far there have been few explicit linkages drawn between these debates. This paper moves both debates forward by presenting the first review of how the neoliberalisation of conservation has affected the kinds of impacts that conservation projects entail for local communities. It finds that, whilst there are important variegations within neoliberal conservation, processes of neoliberalisation nevertheless tend to produce certain recurring trends in their social impacts. Firstly, neoliberal conservation often involves novel forms of power, particularly those that seek to re-shape local subjectivities in accordance with both conservationist and neoliberal-economic values. Secondly, it relies on greater use of use of representation and spectacle to produce commodities and access related markets, which can both create greater negative social impacts and offer new opportunities for local people to contest and reshape conservation projects. Thirdly, neoliberal conservation projects frequently widen the distribution of social impacts by interacting with pre-existing social, economic, and political inequalities. Accordingly, the paper illuminates how neoliberal approaches to conservation generate novel opportunities and constraints for struggles toward more socially and environmentally just forms of biodiversity preservation

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    Last time updated on August 25, 2016

    This paper was published in White Rose Research Online.

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