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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 222-233

The Biopolitics of (English) Rewilding

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Rural Policy Research, University of Exeter, Devon, UK

Correspondence Address:
Virginia Thomas
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Rural Policy Research, University of Exeter, Devonstys
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_89_21

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Even 'hands off' approaches to conservation such as rewilding are intimately, sometimes violently, involved in the lives and deaths of the other-than-human species they seek to protect. Foucauldian biopolitics, with its exploration of the regulation of life and death, is increasingly being used to examine the control of other-than-human species. This article extends the work of other scholars by applying the concept of biopolitics to rewilding in England. A comparative case study of two rewilding sites (the Avalon Marshes in Somerset and Wild Ennerdale in Cumbria) identified common modes of biopolitics operating at both sites. These modes were animals/species as: expendable objects, machines/human proxies, analogues, and self-determining agents, all of which 'allowed' different levels of agency for the species concerned. Given that field sites were purposively selected to display contrasting contexts it is possible to extrapolate from the Avalon Marshes and Wild Ennerdale and propose that these biopolitical modes are operating at other English rewilding sites.

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