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From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

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Negotiating the Future of Local ‘Backwaters’: Participatory Marine Conservation amongst the Islanders in Eastern Indonesia


Friday, 10th of May 2013; 12:00 to 13:00 hrs.

Building 19 (Kevin Stark Research Building), Room #106 (upstairs)
Dirk J. Steenbergen, Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University

Abstract: Remote island communities in eastern Indonesia find themselves engaged with conservation oriented agencies concerned to develop sustainable management of marine resources. In understanding societal responses to marine conservation intervention, strong interplays of structural and agency-based forces behind implementation are revealed. Collaborations and contestations taking place within communities, and between them and conservationists, are examined according to the different ideas, meanings, values and practices that become attached to the conservation program. Deconstructing the collaboration between an Indonesian marine conservation NGO and small island communities, shows how within a single community a conservation program can gain support from specific groups while inciting resistance from others, and how this impacts the way conservation ideas are ultimately perceived and valued. The findings suggest that participatory conservation programs become far more than simply ‘platforms/vehicles to instil sustainable conservation practice’ but inevitably function within complex flows of social interaction and local etiquette, and in this are used by local groups towards attaining objectives that do not necessarily equate to those of the conservation program. The research is based on empirical data collected through multi-sited ethnographic research. Between 2010 and 2011 a period of a year was spent living in two remote small island communities in Eastern Indonesia: Tanimbar Kei in the Kei Islands of Maluku Province and Meos Mangguandi in The Padaido Islands of Papua Province. These communities retain much of the customary practices and traditional knowledge that in the wake of globalisation have since faded from the wider region’s social landscape. A focal point of interest of the on-site work was thus to examine how new ideas and resources geared towards establishing sound marine resource management were aligned with, or rejected by, the local maritime-oriented cultures in these communities.

Biography: Dirk J. Steenbergen’s research focuses on the dynamic nexus between ground-level actors and multi-scaled biodiversity conservation groups in the governance and co-management of natural resources. He completed his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Nature Conservation Policy and Management at the Wageningen University in The Netherlands. For his M.Sc. research, he focused on the participation of marginalized Bajo fishing communities in protected area management in Wakatobi NP, in SE Sulawesi. Besides his research interests in (marine) conservation practice, he spent several years working within conservation programs collaborating on conservation issues with indigenous communities in northeast Namibia and later in Greater Mekong Sub-region. In June 2009 he commenced his PhD at the Asia Research Centre at Murdoch University under supervision of Dr Carol Warren. Currently he is involved in an Australian Research Council funded research project entitled ‘Social Capital, Natural Resources and Local Governance in Indonesia’.


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