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Sovereignty, conservation and island ecological futures

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 July 2018

University of Hawai‘i Mānoa, Center for Pacific Islands Studies, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
University of Colorado Boulder, Department of Anthropology, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
*Correspondence: Dr Alexander Mawyer email:


In this paper, we puzzle the way that sovereignty has been a sketchily present dynamic in conservation discourses. In the case of the world's many island communities whose colonial histories extend into the present in virtually every domain, silences around sovereignty in conservation contexts are particularly notable for the way they suggest the enduring domination of local communities by distant metropoles. Here, we provide a review of several critical issues in Pacific Islands contexts – biosecurity, food security, intellectual and material property rights and protected areas – that highlight the importance of conceptualizing sovereignty beyond the state to better enhance conservation outcomes. The novel approach we take in regard to these problems is to encourage conservation practitioners to more deeply engage with the ‘ecological futures’ that indigenous and local island communities are weaving in a period of active (re)articulations of sovereignty in conception, legal constitution and everyday engagements with island environments.

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Copyright © Foundation for Environmental Conservation 2018 

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