Our colleague Dr George Iordachescu has co-authored with Dr Monica Vasile Forests of Fear: Illegal Logging, Criminalisation and Violence in the Carpathian Mountains – a new publication in which they explore the connections between fast-paced changes in the Romanian political forests and a global turn towards criminalization. George and Monica have been working together on issues related to forest governance, commons and protection since 2015, with previous joint work published in Political Geography, various technical reports and on the website of their project documenting forest and pasture commons across Romania. Part of this research was done within the ERC-funded BIOSEC Project hosted between 2016 -2020 at the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Sheffield.
In this article, we explore the twisted consequences of the worldwide turn toward prohibitive policies and criminalization in conservation. We argue that tackling environmental challenges with legal repertoires that are coercive and punitive in nature increases criminalization and produces insidious and overt forms of violence. Tough-on-crime measures aimed at curbing illegal logging advance social vulnerabilities, further marginalizing already disenfranchised rural populations. Also, such measures trigger the formation of a culture of patronage, secrecy, fear, and anger, which facilitates the rise of forest violence. Transformations of forest use under increasingly harsh regimes of conservation have been documented worldwide, but these processes in Eastern Europe have received far less scholarly attention. Here we explore forest criminalization in Romania after it became a member state of the European Union, looking at different groups of alleged wrongdoers: petty community users, local forestry businessmen, and forestry officers. Drawing on interviews with forestry and conservation actors, media analysis, and ethnographic research of communities for which illegal logging was an everyday reality, we show how criminalization escalated into insidious forms of violence and the deepening of rural vulnerabilities.
The paper can be openly accessed directly here.