State and Local Conservation Traditions: A Comparative Study of Fortress Conservation and Traditional Forest Forts

By Rajiandai Bariam

The paper attempts to contribute to existing discourse on conservation and political ecology by juxtaposing the concept of “fortress conservation” which favors the creation of protected areas, to the concept of “forest forts,” a traditional conservation practice woven into a traditional village society. By drawing insights from the theory of political ecology and colonial conservation laws and practices, the present paper reiterate the critique of “fortress conservation” while advocating a dialogue between the state, conservationists, and the local people. Unlike the forceful and displacive conservation projects and discourse that harbors dissent and protests, straining relationships between state and people, the paper shifts the paradigm emphasizing the healing of relationship among human agencies as of utmost importance, and a vital step in restoring our relationship with nature. It opines that if conservation is to be deeply successful and sustainable, the minimization of casualty and cases of displacement must be part of the equation. Furthermore, it seeks to explain such a possibility through the traditional forest forts in which the local people engaged in the traditional practices of conservation themselves based on their long-standing and time-tested traditional ecological knowledge.

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