Governing nature conservation and mobile agents in the marine and coastal spaces of Southern Patagonia

Nature conservation projects in southern Chile have generated enclosed spaces, promoting the mobility of some social groups (e.g. tourists and scientists), while restricting or regulating the mobility of others (e.g. fishermen and indigenous people). Although these conservation projects have contributed to avoiding ecological degradation, the establishment of bounded conservation spaces is bringing social implications for the sovereignty and equity in accessing and using natural resources. At the same time mobile actors and activities associated with conservation and resource use transcend these fixed boundaries. This in turn has raised questions over the effectiveness of area-based approaches to conservation. Against this background, this project explores and analyses the governance of mobility and immobility of various actors and sectors in relation to the burgeoning spatial claims of nature conservation projects in the marine and coastal spaces of Southern Patagonia, Chile.

The research adopts a sociological approach following the ideas of the mobilities paradigm. Mobilities represent an emerging social science perspective that challenges the ‘a-mobile’ ways in which much social science research has been carried out, ignoring or trivialising the importance of the movements of people, objects and information. By addressing the research problem through the lens of the mobilities paradigm, we try to overcome the longstanding tradition of social science in conceptualising its objects or subjects of analysis as static elements. Data is collected through fieldwork stays in Patagonia, by tracking and analysing the movement of these actors and sectors. Particularly, we use methods such participant observation, interviews and meetings.

The research is structured in four chapters. In the first chapter is analysed nature-based tourism’ mobility in the National Park Torres del Paine, the most relevant protected area in terms of the affluence of tourists in Chilean Patagonia. The second chapter explores the historical immobilisation of Kawésqar and Yaghan people, who were nomads of the sea until the first decades of the 20th century. Particularly, it is interrogated how spatial boundaries have affected their mobility, as well as how these nomadic groups currently face the establishment of protected areas in their maritory. The third chapter addresses the mobile nature of king crab fishery, by analysing fluid relations between fishermen and nature. Finally, the last chapter analyses social implication in terms of boundaries and mobilities that brings the configuration of Chilean Patagonia as a space for nature conservation, incorporating forms of mobilities analysed in former chapters, i.e. nature-based tourism, indigenous and fishermen mobilities.  

Throughout the research, we expect to understand the ways in which nature conservation projects influence and are influenced by social agents’ mobility, and how this dynamic generates opportunities for conservation governance.

This research is funded by the National Commission of Scientific Research and Technology of Chile, CONICYT.