Conservation biopolitics and the sustainability episteme

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This paper develops the idea of the sustainability episteme for the critical analysis of contemporary wildlife conservation. It takes forward recent work in conservation and more-than-human geographies that questions the biopolitical emphasis in conservation on protecting collectivities such as species. Drawing on empirical research on turtle conservation in India and on Foucault’s writings, it inspects how these animals and their wellbeing come to be conceptualized and pursued in contexts marked by tensions between human-centred socio-economic goals and concern for nonhuman life. Specifically, the paper theorizes the concept of the sustainability episteme to argue that biopolitical ontologies of the collectivity enable win-win conservation that addresses incompatible normative goals. Building on these arguments, it discusses the political function of dominant conservation ontologies with reference to the global trajectories of conservation. In problematizing the taken-for-granted dominance of ontologies of the collectivity, the aim is to open up opportunities for life-forms that otherwise remain outside the bounds of conservationist care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1458-1476
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number7
Early online date11 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


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