The International Association for the Study of Commons has been shaping the debates on alternative development pathways by putting commons centre stage. This year’s conference is themed ‘The Commons We Want: Between Historical Legacies and Future Collective Actions’ and it is organised by the University of Nairobi, the University of Bern (Institute of Social Anthropology) and the Centre for Integrated Training and Research in ASAL Development (CETRAD) among other partners. The event will feature discussions on commons and commoning and their potential to build resilience in and beyond crises.
George, a member of IASC since 2018, will co-chair a double panel titled Contesting human-wildlife interactions in the context of the commons together with Lisa Alvarado, Jyothy Karat, Samuel Weissman and Ariane Zangger – colleagues and collaborators from the Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Bern.
Humans and wildlife coexist in multiple ways around the world, but socio-environmental challenges are putting coexistence under new pressures. A growing body of literature sheds new light on the increasing pressures to conserve large carnivores and other charismatic megafauna, which have become the main object of intervention in conservation projects. Individual or collective actors at various levels face new challenges to develop strategies for coexistence that go beyond regulating human-wildlife interactions into the realm of socio-political relations. Building on political ecology approaches, this panel explores the diversity and plurality of commoning institutions and rules that govern the interaction between humans and wildlife, casting new light on their recent history of institutional change. Across geographies, commons are often places of conviviality and constitute essential examples of constitutionality, directly framing and redefining coexistence practices. However, as global conservation becomes an uneven playing field in which powerful actors embrace western knowledge systems against local worldviews, processes such as commons grabbing and green enclosures have the potential to disrupt patterns of commoning and coexistence. This panel invites contributions from a broad range of theoretical and methodological approaches which take a critical stance toward different conservation strategies while advancing the understanding of how the management and functioning of commons have changed historically.
The double panel is scheduled for the first day of the conference, on 19th June from 15:30 to 18:45.
George’s own intervention emerges from his current research on green-collar crimes that affect brown bears in Europe and is titled ‘Thinking with bears. Tools for meaningful human-wildlife coexistence.’
Brown bears (Ursus arctos) are strictly protected within the European Union, although they are no longer considered endangered in countries spanning the Carpathian Mountains. At the same time, bears’ recent strong comeback poses significant challenges to understanding regional wildlife conservation policies, including new ways of fostering coexistence and dealing with human-wildlife conflict. By looking at two study cases from Romania, the paper argues that the theoretical toolkit offered by the convivial turn in conservation is an effective way to understand human-bear coexistence in the complex spatial contexts of the Carpathian region as it can bring to the fore existing and long-established practices of sharing the landscape.
European brown bears are considered charismatic subjects in need of protection when encountered ‘in the wild,’ and a nuisance when they get habituated or ‘lose their shyness’, switching from commodified attractions to manageable game species or objects of culling interventions performed by authorities. But bears transgress these categories all the time; therefore, they are important actors to think with about the current challenges faced by the rural world, such as land abandonment, demands for ecosystem restoration and rewilding, population decline and the rapid demise of traditional livelihoods. The paper spotlights a range of institutionally regulated commoning practices associated with transhumance, religious celebrations, farming and dwelling which have evolved organically and constituted the backbone of sharing the landscape. Under intense pressure, they are still integrated into broader socio-ecological systems that transgress nature-culture dichotomies and are closer to what has recently been described as principles of conviviality. These principles will be critically scrutinized against more conventional approaches to brown bear conservation in the region, from active management and development of various forms of wildlife tourism to trophy hunting and attempts to address wildlife crime and bear trafficking
The paper is based on four months of multispecies ethnographic engagements in various areas of the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, complemented by data obtained from twenty expert interviews and a range of knowledge exchange events with key stakeholders.
The entire conference programme can be accessed here.
For registration details, please check the conference website.