UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Decolonizing conservation? The politics of recognition in Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) Sachs, Cora


This thesis explores the role of Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) in promoting decolonization. By drawing on critical Indigenous political theorists and decolonial scholars, I assess how recognition-centered approaches that maintain structural and subjective dimensions of colonial power dynamics within conservation may limit the potential of ICCAs to support decolonialization for Indigenous peoples and local communities. I situate ICCAs within mainstream biodiversity conservation practices, including their histories of enclosure of Indigenous and customarily held lands through protected areas, the displacement, criminalization, and oppression of Indigenous peoples and local communities associated with many protected areas, and current conservation-associated threats to life and sovereignty for Indigenous peoples. Based a critical literature analysis of ICCAs case studies, I find that the State and institutional maintenance of power renders the decolonizing potential severely limited by a politics of recognition. This mostly results from forms of recognition which restrict access to territory or livelihood practices and limit sovereignty by withholding certain rights. Yet, I still argue that ICCAs can offer significant benefits for Indigenous peoples and local communities to practice territorialization and reclaim sovereignty to defend their lands, waters, and resources. Even within recognition-centric approaches, Indigenous peoples and local communities can still realize some critical collective and self-recognition objectives and actively resist colonial encroachment while creating resurgent Indigenous alternatives, transcending a politics of recognition. This is made possible through reterritorialization and acts of everyday decolonization, grounding normativity, revitalizing alternative political economies, and embodying ontological decolonization.

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