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The constraints of an ‘ironic scholar’: negotiating critical engagement with indigeneity and nature conservation

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Abstract

This paper examines how contemporary articulations of indigeneity as bound to nature are treated by critical scholarship. I suggest that critical scholarship has done much to interrogate problematic understandings and restrictive positionings of indigeneity but has also lead to a contemporary position of irony, explored here as academic detachment and as a corrective form. I argue that this ironic position can lead to a lack of recognition for the ways that some groups are currently articulating indigeneity as bound to nature - in ways that, in Latin America, are currently opening up new political spaces, across scales, to debate how nature is valued, protected and lived with. In this paper, I firstly outline how past critiques from critical geography and anthropology can create an ironic treatment of indigeneity and nature conservation. Secondly, I adopt a political ecology approach to consider how past histories and experiences of (shifting) indigenous discourse can help to make sense of the claims that groups make on nature in the contemporary period, revealing how shifting identity politics, discursive regimes, policy frameworks and articulations of nature have been co-produced. Thirdly, I draw on examples from contemporary Bolivian indigenous politics and suggest their relevance to contemporary conservation debates.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-81
Number of pages8
JournalGeoforum
Volume78
Early online date8 Dec 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

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