CfP POLLEN22: Cultivating Critical Reflexivity in Conservation

*Please note that the conference organisers are yet to determine the conference format, whether it be in person, virtual, or hybrid – they will make a determination early in 2022, given the prevailing COVID-19 situation in South Africa and the national, provincial, and University of KwaZulu-Natal guidelines and protocols at that time.


Sam Staddon and Omar Saif (University of Edinburgh), Fleur Nash (University of Cambridge), and Timur Jack-Kadioglu (Fauna & Flora International)


Critical reflexivity can be thought of as “an embodiment – a personal and internal and constant consciousness. It is deeply embedded in the process towards a decolonial future and understood as the ability to reflect, learn, unlearn, and dismantle overt and subtle legacies of oppression in the process of knowledge production and practice…Critical reflexivity should make us hyper-sensitive to the multiple ways of knowing, being in and understanding the world” (Idahosa and Bradbury 2020, p.33). Compared to reflexivity, critical reflexivity thus aims to move us towards emancipatory goals of social and epistemic justice for marginalised peoples and world views. This session engages with the concept, practice and potential of critical reflexivity in conservation; it asks what cultivates critical reflexivity in conservation practice and research, and what the consequences and contributions of critical reflexivity may be for a more socially and epistemologically just conservation.  

Conservation has long been a focus for political ecologists interested in exposing social injustices associated with protected areas and in the knowledge politics of interventions to manage biodiversity. Calls for inclusive conservation practices that better account for the values, needs and demands of Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs) are increasingly heard amongst practitioners and researchers, as is the need to acknowledge and engage with the colonial histories and continuities of conservation, particularly in light of the 30×30 campaign and wider decolonial agendas in development and environmental governance. It is not just conservation as a sector but the practices of individual conservationists and conservation organisations that are being questioned, along intersectional lines of race, ethnicity, class, gender and nationality, and again with an abiding concern for social and epistemological justice. The identities and positions of those who research conservation, either working with conservation organisations or IPLCs, are also worthy of scrutiny, given the methodological demands and ethical imperatives of research, particularly from Westernised and neoliberal academic institutions.    

This session engages with these debates on conservation and conservation research through an explicit focus on critical reflexivity. It will explore whether critical reflexivity can enable conservation practitioners and researchers to ‘reflect, learn, unlearn’ and whether through this it is possible to ‘dismantle overt and subtle legacies of oppression’ associated with processes of knowledge production and practice in conservation. We invite papers from conservation practitioners and researchers from the Global South, North and beyond, and from those of diverse intersectional positionalities, that address questions such as:

  • Who is/should be engaging in critical reflexivity? Critical reflexivity amongst practitioners, researchers, others 
  • What can/should be critically reflected upon? Positionalities and power relations, structures of oppression within/through conservation, ‘failures’ and/or past practices, conservation aims and agendas, the contexts and histories of conservation, understanding of nature and other beings, etc.  
  • How does critical reflexivity take place? Formal/structured mechanisms, facilitated approaches or experiments, spontaneous/sub-conscious practices, through spoken word or writing or other forms of expression, over what time-frames, in groups or organisations and/or as individuals, etc. 
  • What are the consequences of critical reflexivity? Intended and unintended consequences, social and personal change, disruption of power dynamics within institutions, unsettling ideas of conservation as a needed intervention, potential negative unintended consequences e.g. punishment/repression or feelings of being over-whelmed/paralysis, etc. 
  • How can critical reflexivity be cultivated and understood? How do contexts for critical reflexivity affect practices, what is the role of emotions and care in cultivating critical reflexivity, what theories help us understand processes of critical reflexivity, etc.

If you would like to present a paper in this session, please email us with yourName, affiliation, presentation title (maximum 20 words), abstract (maximum 250 words), and 3 keywords. As we are interested in hearing from a diversity of speakers from the Global South/North/Beyond and along intersectional lines, we encourage you to include some information on your positionality, as you deem appropriate.

Please email: 

Deadline: 21st January (we will let you know of the outcome by 31st January 2022, which is the deadline for session proposals to the conference organisers) 


Idahosa, G.E. & Bradbury, V. (2020) Challenging the way we know the world: overcoming paralysis and utilising discomfort through critical reflexive thought. Acta Academia, 52(1), 31-53. 

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