Environmentality judiciously fired: Burning questions of forest conservation and subject transformation in the Himalayan foothills

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Abstract

‘Environmentality’ is a term used to describe the means by which regulatory processes simultaneously redefine both the environment and the subjectivity of those whose environment is being governed by regulation. Today it is considered a key concept of political ecology. Its most comprehensive and influential articulation is by way of a case-study of the development of community forestry in Kumaon in north India. The case-study argues that the decentralised regulatory system created by the British colonial regime in 1931 created an ‘environmental subjectivity’ among forest users which had not previously existed. However, this article presents evidence that suggests that concern for forest protection – and, thus, ‘environmental subjectivity’ – can be found in Kumaon before the creation of local forest governance; in addition, the article questions the case-study’s interpretation of evidence adduced for ‘environmental subjectivity’ in Kumaon today. Following a discussion on methodology, the article concludes that the case-study’s Euro-centric conception of ‘environmentality’ as an ‘analytical optic’ – derived from the narrow meaning of ‘governmentality’ proposed in the work of Michel Foucault – has resulted in an analysis which systematically elides the agency and beliefs of local people. This optical limitation has implications for other ‘environmentality’ studies. Other forms of analysis, which seek to disclose and decentre features of Western theoretical perspectives on political processes that are internally related to imperialism, are said to offer the potential for outcomes that constitute a non-imperial alternative based on dialogue and mutual understanding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)(In-Press)
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironment and Planning E: Nature and Space
Volume(In-Press)
Early online date13 Sep 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Sep 2019

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subjectivity
conservation
community forestry
imperialism
political process
methodology
governmentality
forestry
environmental policy
evidence
dialogue
regime
governance
India
regulation
interpretation
forest conservation
analysis
community
political ecology

Bibliographical note

Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.

Keywords

  • Environmentality
  • Governmentality
  • Colonial relations
  • imperialism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Development
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations

Cite this

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title = "Environmentality judiciously fired: Burning questions of forest conservation and subject transformation in the Himalayan foothills",
abstract = "‘Environmentality’ is a term used to describe the means by which regulatory processes simultaneously redefine both the environment and the subjectivity of those whose environment is being governed by regulation. Today it is considered a key concept of political ecology. Its most comprehensive and influential articulation is by way of a case-study of the development of community forestry in Kumaon in north India. The case-study argues that the decentralised regulatory system created by the British colonial regime in 1931 created an ‘environmental subjectivity’ among forest users which had not previously existed. However, this article presents evidence that suggests that concern for forest protection – and, thus, ‘environmental subjectivity’ – can be found in Kumaon before the creation of local forest governance; in addition, the article questions the case-study’s interpretation of evidence adduced for ‘environmental subjectivity’ in Kumaon today. Following a discussion on methodology, the article concludes that the case-study’s Euro-centric conception of ‘environmentality’ as an ‘analytical optic’ – derived from the narrow meaning of ‘governmentality’ proposed in the work of Michel Foucault – has resulted in an analysis which systematically elides the agency and beliefs of local people. This optical limitation has implications for other ‘environmentality’ studies. Other forms of analysis, which seek to disclose and decentre features of Western theoretical perspectives on political processes that are internally related to imperialism, are said to offer the potential for outcomes that constitute a non-imperial alternative based on dialogue and mutual understanding.",
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note = "Copyright {\circledC} and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.",
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