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Title:Protesting conservation by protecting the environment: A case study from the Indian Himalayas
Author(s):Fischer, Harry W., IV
Advisor(s):Chhatre, Ashwini
Department / Program:Geography
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
environmental politics
protected areas
social movements
Dhauladhar Wildlife Sanctuary
Community based natural resource management (CBNRM)
environmental subjects
Abstract:The enforcement of restrictions relating to the Dhauladhar Wildlife Sanctuary (DWLS) in Himachal Pradesh, India has catalyzed local resource users into vigorous political action. Through a series of dramatic non-violent protests, villagers have expressed their opposition passionately and prominently. Paradoxically, the fight against the sanctuary appears to have galvanized area residents to protect their resources; villagers recently decided to create their own forest management committee. Based on data collect during two months’ intensive fieldwork in January 2009 and December 2010, I explore how environmental discourse has become embroiled in resource politics at the village level. Emanating from centers of knowledge production and disseminated to the village level through mass media, children’s education, and other means, modern environmental discourses have shaped villagers’ most intimate understanding about their relationship to the natural world. The widespread social consensus about the need to protect the environment has, in turn, set the discursive stage upon which political battles for resource access must now be fought. Villagers’ decision to create a forest management system serves to legitimize the social movement against the sanctuary while simultaneously serving as a potent symbol of local resistance, autonomy, and management capability. More than purely instrumental, however, villagers’ decision is the natural realization of their moral conviction about the need to protect their environment – accentuated through participation in the movement itself. In this thesis, I examine the way that discourse can function within democratic politics to engender pro-environmental behavior, theorize about the ability of the democratic system to promote governance innovations by enabling collective dissent, and explore the useful distinction between cognition and action in examining the environmental subject. In the case of DWLS, environmental ideals and democratic politics have converged in the context of the battle against the sanctuary. Nevertheless, the necessary ingredients for similar outcomes may be present within many routine struggles for political power in resource dependent communities worldwide – perhaps more prevalently than is presently recognized.
Issue Date:2011-01-14
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Harry W. Fischer IV
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-01-14
Date Deposited:December 2

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