This fellowship will explore tensions between environmental conservation, climate change, sustainable development, eco-tourism and military security through a case study of debates about the feasibility of resettlement of the Chagos Archipelago.
Displaced Chagos islanders are campaigning for the right to return to their homeland, a British Overseas Territory in the Indian Ocean. Resettlement is controversial: the UK government is concerned about costs, the US government about the security of its Diego Garcia military base, and environmentalists about the delicate ecosystem. Advanced ethnographic fieldwork will elucidate the meaning of 'return' for the Chagossian community in the context of four decades in exile, intergenerational differences in visions of the future, and a chronic lack of infrastructure on Chagos.
Research methods developed within the sociology of scientific knowledge will be used to explore the perspectives of environmental scientists. Public consultations will facilitate more effective communication between stakeholders – Chagossian groups, their lawyers, support organisations, environmental scientists, conservation groups, tourism companies, and representatives of the UK government – with the aim of developing a collaborative approach to resettlement.
This research will generate insights into collaborative natural resource management, processes of interdisciplinary collaboration, negotiation and dispute resolution, and knowledge practices in conflict.