Amid national and global concerns over human-induced ecological problems in contemporary China, the Chinese state increasingly defines its governmental logic through engagement in environmental conservation efforts in recent years. This statist objective is manifested in Tibetan pastoralist communities through the establishment of protected areas and increased state and civic engagements in wildlife conservation. In this light, this dissertation investigates the specific ways through which Tibetan pastoralists, environmentalists, monastics, and local government officials imagine and construct wildlife conservation in differential ways.
This dissertation is based on 17 months of ethnographic research (2018-2020) in Padma Rimto, a Tibetan pastoralist community in Golok Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province, China. The substantive chapters of the dissertation describe different domains of pastoralist life and work. While seemingly separate from one another, the ethnographic narratives converge on relatively one simple point: pastoralists, environmentalists, monastics, and local government officials conceptualize wildlife conservation in ways that best reflect their divergent ideological visions of futures for both humans and non-humans in Padma Rimto. In this regard, I address such key questions as how do these different social groups rationalize and legitimatize discourses and practices of wildlife conservation? What are the intended and unintended consequences of different regimes of wildlife conservation practices? How do these different social groups negotiate the real and perceived tensions between wildlife conservation and pastoralist livelihood development? In so doing, I argue that wildlife conservation transforms both human and non-human lives and produces new forms of cultural narratives, power dynamics, and sociopolitical relationships among Tibetan pastoralist communities in China.
This dissertation is the first anthropological exploration of wildlife conservation practices among Tibetan pastoralist communities in China. The project contributes to Tibetan studies and anthropology of China by highlighting that Tibetan pastoralists are more engaging with the Chinese state policy practices. Tibetan pastoralists do not simply accept or resist statist visions of development and wildlife conservation. They endorse, challenge, reinterpret, and transform state policy discourses and practices simultaneously in ways that best reflect their desires and visions of pastoralist futures.
Table of Contents
Notes on Non-English Terms
List of Figures
Introduction: Theorizing Wildlife Conservation
Historicizing Wildlife Conservation in the Tibetan Context
The Order of Nature
Becoming Scientists: Remaking Knowledge and Expertise
The Knowledgeable Wildlife
Visions of Futures: Pastoralism and Conservation
Physical Distancing with Wildlife in the Age of COVID-19
Conclusion: Towards a Multispecies Ontological Approach
About this Dissertation
|Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor|
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