CFPs: Geographies of neoliberal conservation: ‘actually existing’ conservation in the global north

Recent years have seen the theoretical development of the distinctive field of neoliberal conservation studies (Büscher, Dressler, & Fletcher, 2014; Büscher, Sullivan, Neves, Igoe, & Brockington, 2012). Related yet distinct from the expansive literature on the neoliberalisation of nature, this burgeoning research agenda has concentrated attention on the growing enthusiasm for the ‘win-win’ solutions of the green economy and markets for conservation, biodiversity and ecosystem services. This is coupled with a focus on institutional and regulatory reconfigurations, new governmentalities of environmental conservation, and the rescaling of governance and devolution of responsibilities into the hands of supranational bodies, multinational corporations, NGOs, grassroots movements, and global donors and investors. 
Much of the empirical work has concerned itself with the variations of, contingent development and resistances to ‘actually existing’ biodiversity conservation policies and practices in the global south, as well as the formation and contestation of green economy and conservation discourses at the global level. However, the neoliberal conservation agenda has produced relatively little work to date on ‘actually existing’ biodiversity conservation in the advanced economies of the global north (though see for instance Apostolopoulou & Adams, 2015). While plenty of critical empirical studies exist, they are rarely framed explicitly in relation to this literature, and seem to have made little impact on the development of theory. The aim of this session is to begin to address this gap, to ask what might be different about neoliberal conservation in the global north, and question the theoretical implications for the broader field of neoliberal conservation studies.
In Europe in particular, the rollout of neoliberal conservation policies has been accelerated since the global financial crisis and subsequent period of recession and austerity. However, we question whether existing theoretical work is adequate for explaining these developments, in often radically different social, environmental and institutional contexts. We would ask, for instance:
  • What difference do the land politics of conservation make, in places where land has long been highly commodified and societies largely urbanised? 
  • What relevance does conservation’s historical formation in the global north and (neo)colonial diffusion around the world have, and how does it structure how policies and practices play out in the so-called developed world as opposed to the global south?
  • What role does the state, operating at multiple scales, play today in the spread of neoliberal conservation policies in advanced economies?
  • How do the politics and practices of mass membership conservation NGOs diverge ‘at home’ as opposed to abroad, in divergent discursive and material environments? What about those of other non-state conservation actors, based in the global north? 
  • What can be said about the geographies of labour in conservation and environmental management in the radically different institutional settings of advanced economies? 
We would encourage contributions on these and related themes of neoliberal conservation, both theoretical and empirical, including comparative studies, which address the questions posed above. Please submit abstracts,no longer than 250 words, to the session organisers, Jose Cortes-Vazquez ( and Andy Lockhart (, by no later than 31 October 2015. Discussant TBC.
Session organised for the Political Ecologies of Conflict, Capitalism and Contestation conference, 7-9 July 2016. Hotel Wageningse Berg, Wageningen, The Netherlands (organised by: Wageningen University and School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London)


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