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Contesting Conservation explores today's changing intellectual climate, wherein understanding politics at different levels from global to local is considered mandatory in order to appraise the outcome of nature conservation interventions. By carefully examining two such processes – the ban on shahtoosh trade (shahtoosh is the down hair of the Tibetan antelope used in weaving a specific kind of shawl) and the 'National Afforestation Programme' in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Contesting Conservation reveals how these processes are influenced by politics at different levels – from their introduction at the macro-level to their implementation at the micro-level – and in turn become coloured by the agendas and interests of the various stakeholders involved. Throughout the book, one priority is to give a voice to the poor resource-users who have been traditionally dependent on wildlife and forest resources for mere subsistence. Yet, these same people are who bear the brunt of nature conservation costs, rather than those actors who are responsible for the most serious violations in pursuit of greater profits.
Contemporary Environmental Sociology is chiefly characterised by its focus on power relations in resource conservation and management. In 'political ecology' literature, too – especially after recognising the paradoxes and limitations of approaches such as 'sustainable development', 'sustainable livelihoods' and 'community based natural resource management' – there is a growing concern for critical analyses of multi-level politics in connection with nature conservation.
The purpose of Contesting Conservation is not to challenge the gravity of environmental concerns, but to question the dominance of conservation interests over the subsistence needs of local communities, and to strike a balance between environmental and social justice. It argues that, unless and until more just accountability for the affected populations is ensured, conservation policies are unlikely to meet the goals of sustainable resource management.
Given its critical engagement with human-nature conflicts in Jammu and Kashmir, the book offers a unique resource for students and scholars of Environmental Sociology, Political Ecology, Natural Resources Management, Conflict Studies and Human Rights Studies.
Chapter 1: Introduction.- 1. Wildlife and forest conservation in J&K: an introduction.- 2. Political ecology: approaches and analytical framework.- 3. Theoretical positioning.- 4. Contesting conservation: what this study contributes.- 5. Chapter layout.- Chapter 2: Jammu and Kashmir: contextualising conservation in specific sites.- 1.1. Jammu and Kashmir: an introduction.- 1.2. Field locations.- 2.1. Ethnography of conservation interventions.- 2.2. Description of fieldwork.- 2.3. Research in the context of violent conflict.- Chapter 3: Tibetan Antelope and Shahtoosh Shawl: a brief history.- 1.1. Chiru and its habitat.- 1.2. The shahtoosh wool: myths and realities.- 2.1. From raw wool to finished shawl: the production process.- 2.2. Shahtoosh workers: population and distribution.- 3.1. Origin and development of the shawl industry.- 3.2. Marginalisation and exploitation of the shawl workers: pre-independence.- 3.3. Shahtoosh workers and the new state: post-independence.- 4. Conclusion.- Chapter 4: The Ban on Shahtoosh: sustainability for whom?.- 1.1. The ban on shahtoosh: a chronology of events.- 1.2. The prospects of chiru farming: observations of the `expert group'.- 2.1. Weak enforcement and split role of the state.- 2.2. Shawl workers response to the ban: protest and politics.- 3.1. The trade continues: illegality and shadow networks of shahtoosh.- 3.2. Militancy and shahtoosh: exploring the connections.- 4.Conclusion.- Chapter 5: The Micropolitics of the Ban on Shahtoosh: costs and reparations.- 1.1. The origin of wool and the unpopularity of the ban.- 1.2. Different categories, differential impact.- 1.3. Machines and adulteration.- 1.4. Decreasing wages, increasing prices: strategies of labour exploitation and control.- 1.5. Declining social prestige and cultural heritage.- 2. Rehabilitation and alternative livelihoods: accountability of whom?.- 3. Conclusion.- Chapter 6: Forests, State and People: a historical account of forest management and control in J&K.- 1. Forest management in early colonial period.- 2. Local access versus commercial needs: the politics of scientific forestry in the late colonial period.- 3. National interests versus local needs: the politics of forest management in the post-colonial period.- 4. Conclusion.- Chapter 7: Joint Management of Forests and Split Role of the State: the politics of forest conservation in J&K.- 1. Joint management of forests: new arenas of `partnership' and `participation'.- 2. Setting the scene: interplay between centre, state and non-state actors.- 3.1. Navni and Chinnora: a brief introduction.- 3.2. Our forests, their timber: the politics of resource control.- 3.3. Split role of the field-staff: forest regulations vis-a-vis local needs.- 4. Conclusion.- Chapter 8: The Micropolitics of Forest Use and Control: new spaces for cooperation and conflict.- 1.1. From centralisation to decentralisation: do blockages disappear?.- 1.2. Panchayat and JFMC: conflicting powers and functions.- 2. Increased biomass, reduced access.- 3. Illegal timber felling: what if fence eats the grass?.- 4. Conclusion.- Chapter 9: On Conservation Politics: cooperation, conflicts and contestations .- 1. Power as dispersed and fluid.- 2. Between cooperation and conflict: spaces for contestation.- 3. Who is accountable?.- 4. Policy implications.- 5. Conclusion.- Bibliography.
Saloni Gupta's research interests include political ecology, sociology of work, development sociology and cultural studies. She holds a master's degree in Sociology from the University of Jammu, India, and a PhD in Development Studies from the University of London, UK, for which she received a Commonwealth Fellowship. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in India on issues related to wildlife and forest conservation, and has taught courses on environmental sociology, globalisation and development studies at universities in India, the UK and Germany. She is currently working as an independent researcher in India.