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Indigenous peoples in nature conservation discourse

Elsa Reimerson
Umeå Universitet
Elsa Reimerson
Umeå Universitet
Open Panel

Abstract

Discourses on nature conservation and indigenous rights are closely linked, and as protected areas often include traditional lands of indigenous peoples, these discursive practices have implications both for the political agency of indigenous peoples and for nature conservation policy. Both discourses have changed during recent years. The protection of specific species or areas has been challenged by notions of socio-ecological systems and biodiversity. Indigenous peoples have strengthened their rights through international treaties, but their relationship to nature is still often seen as different than others groups’. In this paper, I examine the discursive construction of indigenous peoples in nature conservation discourse, and the links between the two discourses. Using postcolonial and discourse theory as a theoretical and methodological framework, I situate the discussion in a historical context and investigate the political implications. Starting on the international level, the specific purpose of this paper is to develop an analytical frame to be able to analyze the impact of international discourses on national and local levels. The empirical base of my study consists of official documents, conventions and treaties on nature conservation and indigenous rights from the relevant bodies of the UN and the European Union. By examining the relationship and connection between these parallel discourses, with a focus on how ideas about the relationship between humans and nature affect how natural resource management is designed and implemented, the results of this paper contributes to a broader discussion on nature’s roll in politics and how different accounts of nature shape policy areas.