CfP POLLEN20 – Prefiguring Indigeneity at Capitalist Frontiers: Conservation-Extractivism and Resource Making in the Age of Climate Change

Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN 20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organizers

Melis Ece, British Academy Newton International Fellow, School of Global Studies, Anthropology, University of Sussex, UK (

James Fairhead, Anthropology, University of Sussex, UK (

Madhuri Karak, Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow, Washington D.C., US (

This panel invites contributions of 300-500 words or less from academics and practitioners working in any geographical region. Please email your abstracts to Melis Ece ( and Madhuri Karak ( by November 20, 2019.

Session description

Resource conservation and extractivism increasingly merge in forested frontiers of the Global South as conservation becomes a ‘for profit’ endeavour linked to climate finance and climate commodity markets.  Extractive mining projects claim carbon or biodiversity offsets for ‘landscape restauration’ and, forest carbon conservation projects aim at “revenue-generating” via carbon credits and extractive activities.

Although they commodify and financialize different ‘bits and pieces of nature’ (McAffee 2015, Sullivan 2013, Leach and Scoones 2015), extractivism and conservation share many similarities. They both create enabling conditions for resource grabbing (Fairhead et al. 2012; Borras et al. 2011; Kelly 2015; Kay 2018). Yet, neither of them can be considered to simply commodify ‘natural’ resources, as both depend greatly on ‘resource-making processes’ that bring together or “assemble” specific governance and market relations and a wide array of actors in the creation and valuing of ‘resources’ (Li 2004; Corson et al. 2019).

Recent work in political ecology has focused on the importance of material qualities of the resource-in-the making (Bakker and Bridge 2006) as well as on the production of ‘socio-natural resource commodities’, shaped by ‘situated histories’ of violent territorialisations, primitive accumulation, and privatization (Peluso 2012).  Less discussed are the ways in which notions of indigeneity, autochthony and belonging are brought into this assemblage, whether in the creation and valuation of resources or dialectically in prefiguring counterstrategies against market-based conservation and extractivism.

Notions of indigeneity (or autochthony) have long been important tropes in the governance of peoples and resources in variegated colonial and postcolonial, national histories and geographies of the Global South. They have played a key role in framing and re-organizing “natural resources,” re-shaping local relations with the natural world and in re(constructing) territorialized conceptions of belonging.  In the era of climate “crisis”, the place of indigeneity has intensified as a central aspect of resource making. Those driving ‘resource making’ in accordance with market prerogatives do not only seek to make the resources legible to capital (Robertson 2006) and to the state (Scott 1998). They also endeavour to render extractive or conservation regimes legitimate and persuasive. In this context, the existence of an ‘indigenous’ community with legitimate claims may help conservation and extractive initiatives claim ‘inclusivity’, drawing the community itself into assemblages that ‘make resources.’ However, indigeneity may also become a sign post around which community counter-claims and counter-strategies are prefigured and enacted.

This panel invites papers to reflect on one or more of the following questions:

  • In what ways has indigeneity and its experience become entangled in resource making processes, assemblages and practices?
  • What new challenges are faced by peoples positioned (cf. Hall 1995, Li 2000) as indigenous/autochthonous when drawn into assemblages that are rendering their environment as a resource.
  • What forms of exclusion, erasure and conflicts are being enacted as a result of indigenous peoples’ recruitment into market-based assemblages of conservation-extractivism?