CFP for special issue: Conservation in ‘violent environments’

CfP for an special issue on “Conservation in ‘violent environments’”
Special issue proposal to Political Geography
Deadline for abstracts: 30 March 2018

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

In the proposed special issue, we aim to draw explicit theoretical linkages between
political geography literature on violence and conflict (Raleigh and Linke 2018;
Springer and Le Billon 2016), and the environment (Benjaminsen et. al. 2017), more
specifically, the critical conservation literature in political ecology debates. Work on
so-called ‘violent environments’ (Peluso and Watts, 2001) brings the two fields of
research together. We aim to elaborate that concept further, to advance conceptual
and theoretical thinking in the critical conservation literature, by applying it to spaces
where the (often violent) politics surrounding conservation is itself immersed within a
larger violent context of conflict or war.

As such, this special issue will explore how conservation practices are intertwined
with broader conflict dynamics and how this ties into struggles over power that can be
traced to issues such as ethnicity, forms of land-use, race, class, gender in violent
spaces. We propose to further the debates about how multiple actors are embedded
within the political geographies of militarised conservation, and how their counter
projects and claims, co-constitute ‘violent environments’.

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, 2018), ‘green militarisation’ (Lunstrum 2014; Duffy 2014) and the
greening of counter-insurgency (Dunlap and Fairhead, 2014; Verweijen and Marijnen,
2016). This literature mostly focuses on the structural and symbolical forms of
violence associated with ‘green militarisation’. However, an important area that is
overlooked and under researched in the critical conservation studies is how wider
violent contestations and forms of domination feed into the conservation efforts. In
other words: when and why is armed conservation caught up in broader patterns of
physical violence, and conflicts over public authority (Marijnen, 2018)? Both conflict
and violence are concepts short of clearly delineated definitions (Springer and Le
Billon 2016), and little is known on how conflicts exactly become violent, who is
affected by such violence, or how legacies of violent conflict and war continue to
influence conservation spaces, practices and actors.

Abstracts should explore these questions in relation to protected areas in places
affected by violent conflict or faced with other militarised or violent threats. We also
encourage submissions that explore the linkages between environmental protection,
violence and poaching beyond formal protected areas. Proposed papers can develop
along different sub questions, e.g.:

  • How do different conservation actors, operating at different scales, react to the specific challenges of conservation in areas of armed conflict? 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 do violent confrontations between conservationists and other armed actors contribute to the militarization of access, commodities, livelihoods and nature-
    society relations more broadly?
  • How does the legacy and history of violent conflict and war continue to shape and
    influence conservation spaces in ‘post-conflict’ contexts? How does a history of
    war in and around protected areas continue to influence conservation spaces,
    practices and actors?

We aim to broaden the range of actors/ authorities we scrutinize when studying armed
conservation, for instance by including the role of standing armies, rebel groups,
poachers, (armed) pastoralists, vigilantes, customary authorities, as wildlife
authorities, (international) NGOs, private military companies, businesses, and media.
Often actors operating in the same field co-constitute each other and roles may shift
depending on changing circumstances (Lombard 2012). Broadening the scope and of
actors allows us to better interrogate how conservation efforts are entangled with
issues of militarized access, the commoditization of nature, ‘conflict resources’ and

Depending on the abstracts submitted, we will select papers that bring together
different forms, practices and effects of violence in relation to conservation, and that
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. We are keen to provide coverage of examples drawn from a range of
geographical regions in order to develop an analysis of the broader global patterns.
Please send abstracts (of 200 words) to Esther Marijnen (esther.marijnen[at]
and Lotje de Vries (Lotje.devries[at] by 30 March 2018. The special issue
editors will select the papers which will become part of the special issue proposal.

Should the special issue be accepted by Political Geography, we have the following
steps in mind:
30 September 2018: Submission of full drafts to special issue editors.
31 October 2018: All authors have received feedback from the editors
15 December 2018: Final versions are submitted to Political Geography.

Benjaminsen, T. A., H. Buhaug, F. McConnell, J. Sharp, P. E. Steinberg (2017)
‘Political Geography and the environment’, Political Geography 56, A1-A2.
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. (2018) 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. (2006) The Potential and Pitfalls of Global Environmental Governance: The
Politics of Transfrontier Conservation Areas in Southern Africa. Political
Geography 25(1): 89–112.
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. (2013) Articulated sovereignty: Extending Mozambique state power
through the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, Political Geography 36: 1-11.
Lombard, L. (2012) Raiding Sovereignty in Central African Borderlands.
Unpublished PhD thesis, Duke University.
Marijnen, E. (2018) ‘Public authority and conservation in areas of armed conflict:
Virunga National Park as a ‘state within a state’’, Development and Change, online
advanced publication.
Springer, S. and P Le Billon (2016) ‘Violence and space: An introduction to the
geographies of violence’, Political Geography, 52: 1-3.
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.
Raleigh, C. and A. Linke (2018) ‘Subnational governance and conflict: An
introduction to a special issue on governance and conflict’ Political Geography 63:
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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