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An ecology of politics: environment, sociality and development in southern Belize

Haines, S.L.; (2011) An ecology of politics: environment, sociality and development in southern Belize. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis addresses the problematic relationships between ecology and politics that have proved so hard to pin down in studies of environment and development, and related policy responses. By exploring the mutual constitution of resources and meanings in three rural villages of southern Belize, it examines resource-related issues, focussing on how local people perceive and engage with decision-making over highway construction, electricity provision, community forestry and the disputed national border, in a sensitive political climate in which the nation-state, indigenous groups and others are urgently debating land security within broader contestations of ‗marginality‘ and ‗modernity‘. Using qualitative data collected during 18 months of fieldwork among Mopan, Q‘eqchi‘ and mestizo people I combine interpretive ethnography with arguably more empirical themes of ‗development‘ and ‗ecology‘. Political relations at multiple scales are embodied and engaged in the environment, as people practically and discursively navigate places and paths, entwined in historical patterns of human migration and settlement. Environment constitutes both means and ends in contemporary struggles in which lands, livelihoods, and their associated meanings are at stake. The ‗village as community‘ – so often the target of development projects - has a complex history, influenced by colonial and post-colonial contexts of imagined, acknowledged and lived citizenship, as described in compelling narratives of refugees and pioneers. Significant groupings and connections exist within and between villages; their mechanisms of formalization and ephemerality are dynamic. Toledo‘s frontier areas (particularly the Guatemalan border) are not merely marginal territories, but resource-full and meaningful locales of connection, affirmation and anxiety. A proposed cross-border highway distils many of these hopes and fears. Such interactions, border processes and negotiations – comprising what I envision as an ecology of politics - are at the heart of a more nuanced, contextualized approach to studies of environment, sociality and development.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: An ecology of politics: environment, sociality and development in southern Belize
Language: English
Additional information: Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1147771
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