CfP POLLEN18: Conservation in ‘violent environments’

Organizers: Esther Marijnen, Rosaleen Duffy (University of Sheffield), and Lotje de Vries (Wageningen University)

Abstract deadline: 01 December 2017

This panel focuses on the dynamics and politics of nature conservation in challenging, or so called ‘violent environments’ (Peluso and Watts, 2001). We aim to explore how ideas, concepts and theories in the critical conservation literature are challenged when applied to spaces where the (often violent) politics surrounding conservation is itself immersed within a larger violent environment. Recent debates in political ecology focus on the emergence and spread of ‘green violence’ (Büscher and Ramutsindela, 2016), ‘green wars’ (Ybarra, 2012; Büscher and Fletcher, forthcoming), ‘green militarisation’ (Lunstrum 2014; Duffy 2014) and the greening of counter-insurgency (Dunlap and Fairhead, 2014; Verweijen and Marijnen, 2016). Others have focussed on how these projects are re-produced via (social) media, embedded reporting and the involvement of celebrities in militarised conservation (Lunstrum, 2017; Büscher, 2016; Marijnen and Verweijen, 2017). This literature mostly focuses on the structural and symbolical forms of violence associated with ‘green militarisation’. However, an area which is overlooked and under researched is when and why armed conservation can turn into physical violence, and how other violent contestations feed into the conservation efforts.

For this panel, we seek papers which explore different forms, practices and effects of violence in relation to conservation. We seek to deepen our understanding of how different forms of violence at different geographical scales, political projects, and local to international networks influence and/or relate to each other. Moreover, we also welcome papers focussing on the effects of violent green militarisation, both intended and unintended. For example, how does the associated devalourisation of life, relating to both the human and non-human world, contributes to social disruption, and the militarisation of livelihoods and society more broadly?

This panel aims to broaden the range of different actors/ authorities we analyse and scrutinize when studying armed conservation, for instance including the role of standing armies, rebel groups, insurgencies, armed poachers, armed pastoralists, police, vigilantes, and customary authorities. This allows us to better interrogate how conservation efforts are entangled with issues of militarized access, the commoditization of nature, ‘conflict resources’ and livelihoods. Analysing the plurality of authority, also applies to the conservation side, such as wildlife authorities, ministries, (international) NGOs, private military companies, businesses, media and military contractors. Yet, this panel aims to approach these groups not as dichotomous, as they operate in the same field they co-constitute each other; poachers as well as and para-military park guards may turn into rebels (Lombard, 2014) and vice-versa, and while some army units work with wildlife authorities, they can also be involved in poaching or supporting rebel groups. This panel thus focusses on how multiple actors are embedded within the political economy of militarised conservation, and their counter projects and claims, co-constituting ‘violent environments’.


We invite abstracts exploring questions such as:

  • How do contestations around conservation practices become interlinked with broader conflict dynamics evolving around, for example, ethnicity, race, class, gender, and related struggles over power?
  • The need to differentiate between violence and conflict. When and how do conflicts and contestations themselves become ‘violent’ and who is affected by such violence?
  • How do different conservation actors, operating at different scales, react to these challenges? Also, how do para-military park guards themselves navigate their difficult position in these ‘violent environments’; respond to their hierarchies, while trying to protect their lives and their jobs?
  • How does violent confrontations between conservationists and other armed actors contribute to the militarization of access, commodities, livelihoods and nature-society relations more broadly?

We explore these questions in relation to protected areas in places affected by violent conflict or faced with other militarised or violent threats. We are also interested in papers that explore interlinked issues around environmental protection, violence and poaching beyond the confined border of formal protected areas.

Please send abstracts (of 200-300 words) to Esther Marijnen ( and Rosaleen Duffy ( by 01 December 2017. Authors will be notified of their acceptance for the session as soon as possible thereafter.


Büscher, B., 2016. ‘Rhino poaching is out of control!’ Violence, race and the politics of hysteria in online conservation. Environment and Planning A, 2016, Vol. 48(5) 979–998.

Büscher, B. and Ramutsindela, M., 2016. Green violence: Rhino poaching and the war to save southern Africa’s peace parks. African Affairs 115(458), 1–22.

Büscher, B. and Fletcher, R. Under Pressure: Conceptualizing Political Ecologies of “Green Wars”. Conservation and Society, Forthcoming.

Duffy, R. (2014). Waging a war to save biodiversity: the rise of militarized conservation. 
International Affairs, 90(4), 819-834.

Duffy, R. (2016). War, by conservation. Geoforum, 69, 238-248.

Dunlap, A. and Fairhead, J., 2014. The militarization and marketization of nature: An alternative lens to climate-conflict. Geopolitics 19, 937–961.

Lunstrum, E. (2014) Green Militarization: Anti-Poaching Efforts and the Spatial Contours of Kruger National Park. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 104(4): 816–32.

Lunstrum, E. (201) Feed them to the lions: Conservation violence goes online. Geoforum 79, 134-143.

Lombard, L. (2012) Raiding Sovereignty in Central African Borderlands. Unpublished PhD thesis, Duke University.

Marijnen, E. and J. Verweijen, J. (2016). ‘Selling Green Militarization: The Discursive (Re)-Production of Militarized Conservation in the Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Geoforum 75: 274-285.

Peluso, N. L. and Watts M., 2001. Violent environments, in Peluso, N.L. and Watts, M. (eds) Violent Environments. Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 3–38.

Verweijen, J. and E. Marijnen (2016) ‘The Counterinsurgency/Conservation Nexus: Guerrilla Livelihoods and the Dynamics of Conflict and Violence in the Virunga National Park, DR Congo’, The Journal of Peasant Studies, online advanced publication, 1–21.

Ybarra, M., 2012. Taming the jungle, saving the Maya Forest: Sedimented counterinsurgency practices in contemporary Guatemalan conservation. The Journal of Peasant Studies 32(2), 479–502.

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