Doctoral Dissertation Research: The Cultural Politics of Community Based Conservation Territories in Nepal's Chitwan National Park Buffer Zone Grant

Doctoral Dissertation Research: The Cultural Politics of Community Based Conservation Territories in Nepal's Chitwan National Park Buffer Zone .


  • This project will examine the political and socio-economic effects of community-based conservation (CBC) projects in buffer zones surrounding national parks. The project will investigate the complex interplay between biodiversity conservation, cultural identity, and rural development in order to understand how buffer zones and CBC projects shape rural property regimes, reproduce or alleviate socioeconomic inequalities, and inform new political subjectivities and indigenous territorial claims. The project focuses on national park buffer zones in South Asia, a strategically important, politically volatile region and a vital contributor to global biodiversity, and the specific case of Nepal, which has experienced both a Maoist-inspired insurgency and an expansion in CBC projects. Community-based conservation projects are intended to promote rural socio-economic development and political participation, reduce political tensions over land distribution, and create the conditions of biodiversity conservation in the countryside. Actual experiences of such projects are mixed. This project is expected to expand understanding of the effects of such projects in order to aid international policy-making efforts to improve conservation and development planning. Findings will be disseminated through presentations in workshops and conferences in the U.S., Nepal, and elsewhere. The project may also promote STEM education through the dissemination of results relevant to conservation biology and support U.S. security interests through the dissemination of knowledge about Nepal's rural political conditions. The research will also contribute to academic programs at Florida International University, a minority-serving public institution that prepare graduates for success in a globally competitive workforce. Questions of how and to what effect CBC projects intersect with identity politics surrounding territorial claims and land rights are central, but unsettled in the scientific literature. At one extreme, studies have identified the displacement of indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities as a chief outcome. At the other extreme, some studies have credited the introduction of CBCs with strengthening local community land rights and indigenous peoples' territorial claims. Findings from this study will be used to improve the theorization of disparate outcomes. The primary questions pursued are: 1) what effects do CBC initiatives have on socioeconomic inequalities and vice versa; 2) how are CBC initiatives implicated in state making and social identity formation; and 3) what effects do CBC initiatives have on rural property relations and indigenous territorial claims The project employs a mix of ethnographic and quantitative methods in an extended field study of two buffer zone communities in Nepal. Methods include participant observation, in-depth semi-structured interviews, and document analysis.

date/time interval

  • March 15, 2016 - August 31, 2017

sponsor award ID

  • 1558645