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Negotiating the panoptic gaze: power & conservation surveillance

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Rogelio Luque-Lora.

In recent years, the use of new and existing surveillance technologies in the practice of conservation has increased rapidly. This includes the use of drones, camera traps, satellite and thermal imagery for activities such as wildlife monitoring, anti-poaching and law enforcement. In many respects surveillance is constitutive of modern society, especially in urban spaces (Lyon 1995) where its use has been widely discussed. In the conservation context, surveillance intensifies the demarcation of spaces between nature and people by intensifying territorialization (Adams 2017), and it has been suggested that it could impact the wellbeing of local stakeholders in various ways (Sandbrook 2015, Sandbrook et al 2018). However, the social and political implications of surveillance technologies in conservation and natural resource management remain an underexplored field of empirical inquiry. Drawing from 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the Corbett Tiger Reserve, India, this paper unpacks and explores the social and political implications of a wide range of surveillance technologies on local communities, conservation labour and on conservation governance. I argue that these technologies are used to establish multiple surveillance regimes, resulting in several environmentalities and in the production of disciplined people, wildlife and spaces. These regimes exacerbate already prevalent social injustices and structural inequalities of gender, caste and class discrimination, resulting in mistrust and negative perceptions of local communities towards conservation policies.

This talk is part of the Political Ecology Group meetings series.

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