Universitas Indonesia Conferences, The 8th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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Looking like a crisis? How conservationist regimes of visibility reproduce and destabilise authoritative crisis imaginaries in a Hutan Desa (Village Forest) in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Paul Thung

Last modified: 2022-05-31


Global narratives of planetary crisis routinely position rural human communities as the most sustainable and legitimate environmental managers. Consequently, financial and political support for community-based natural resource management is one of the most popular forms of response to planetary crisis. Although community-led in theory, the implementation of such programmes is often coordinated by conservation NGOs, who mediate between global concerns and local realities. Through an ethnography of mediation in a Social Forestry project in West Kalimantan, this paper reveals the multiplicity of planetary crisis.

NGOs tried to represent local people and places in a way that rendered them amenable to the kinds of intervention that higher-level actors could support. Specifically, the NGOs aimed to use Indonesia’s national Social Forestry policy, combined with REDD+ funding, a global climate change mitigation programme which incentivises sustainable tropical forestry. To draw in these programmes, the NGOs set up what I call a regime of visibility, which involved participatory exercises, community meetings, forest patrols, analysis of satellite imagery, and the production of maps, charts, and other project documents. Although designed to create representations that align with authoritative narratives about planetary crisis, some of what was revealed by this regime of visibility destabilised those narratives. Moving into the fissures between narrative and vision, I report on the multiple, contested ways in which villagers see, understand, and respond to planetary crisis.



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