This article investigates how critical environmental theories about worldwide processes of “liberalizing nature” might be applied to the analysis of actually existing neoliberal maneuvers observed in the historical and political contexts where they are rooted. Over the past 10 years the Sri Lankan government has enacted a politics of dispossession at the expense of small local farmers within the borders of Yala National Park, the country’s most famous eco-tourist destination. This has served to enlarge the natural reserve and marketize lands for tourist investments. In addition, elephant attacks have become increasingly frequent. The situation has provoked clashes and protests by the cultivators who have practiced slash-and-burn agriculture in this area for generations, but it has also activated subtle coping mechanisms and survival tactics. Adopting an ethnographic approach, this paper shows how the different and contradictory interests at stake at the borders of Yala National Park push local famers to employ various (and often divergent) forms of agency: sometimes openly resisting government maneuvers and claiming rights over the protected lands; other times, instead, reducing potential losses and turning environmental threats into new opportunities for profit.

Elephants Never Forget: Capturing Nature at the Border of Ruhuna National Park (Yala), Sri Lanka

BENADUSI, Mara
2015

Abstract

This article investigates how critical environmental theories about worldwide processes of “liberalizing nature” might be applied to the analysis of actually existing neoliberal maneuvers observed in the historical and political contexts where they are rooted. Over the past 10 years the Sri Lankan government has enacted a politics of dispossession at the expense of small local farmers within the borders of Yala National Park, the country’s most famous eco-tourist destination. This has served to enlarge the natural reserve and marketize lands for tourist investments. In addition, elephant attacks have become increasingly frequent. The situation has provoked clashes and protests by the cultivators who have practiced slash-and-burn agriculture in this area for generations, but it has also activated subtle coping mechanisms and survival tactics. Adopting an ethnographic approach, this paper shows how the different and contradictory interests at stake at the borders of Yala National Park push local famers to employ various (and often divergent) forms of agency: sometimes openly resisting government maneuvers and claiming rights over the protected lands; other times, instead, reducing potential losses and turning environmental threats into new opportunities for profit.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11769/30715
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