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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 : 2023  |  Volume : 21  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 17-27

The Absent Agent: Orangutans, Communities, and Conservation in Indonesian Borneo

Department of Anthropology, Brunel University London, London, UK

Correspondence Address:
Viola Schreer
Department of Anthropology, Brunel University London, London
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_120_21

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In a time of unprecedented species loss, whose absence matters in international biodiversity conservation? Who or what is made absent in this process, and how? Drawing on scholarship that focuses on the agency of absence, this article explores how the orangutan (Pongo spp.)—a popular conservation flagship species—becomes present in Bornean villagers' lives. It offers a new understanding of flagship species action by examining the complex, often unseen relational dynamics through which orangutans influence community-conservation encounters. As the study shows, conservationists' efforts to mitigate the absence of species through a combination of imaginative, discursive, and material variables inadvertently 'absences' Bornean villagers and their concerns. Reflecting on this process of absencing, the paper moreover discusses how notions of absence inform contemporary conservation thought and action.

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