Indigenous people have been effective stewards of biodiversity globally

Prakash Kashwan is an associate professor in the Political Science department at the University of Connecticut, United States. His research, scholarship, and teaching focus on climate justice, global climate governance, international and environmental policy and politics, and the political economy of development. He speaks to Ishan Kukreti on his work, Democracy in the Woods: Environmental Conservation and Social Justice in India, Tanzania, and Mexico.

How did the idea of Democracy in the Woods take shape? Why compare three countries that are so different from one another?

This book has its roots in my doctoral research that analysed the Forest Rights Act (FRA); specifically, the policy debates and implementation challenges about the relationship between community forest rights and household land rights. This was an extremely exciting project that allowed me to bring together disparate theories.

However, in developing the dissertation into a book in the year 2012, I wanted to focus on bigger questions of how the international and national political economy processes and structures shape the relationship between environmental conservation and social justice.

The questions of forestland contestations are highly salient in India, Tanzania, and Mexico, though each of them differs significantly in the large political economic factors that shape the political and policy processes that are central to the book’s argument.