Discourses of Decentralization: Local Participation and Sámi Space for Agency in Norwegian Protected Area Management
Chapter from the book: Andersson, R et al. 2021. Bridging Cultural Concepts of Nature: Indigenous People and Protected Spaces of Nature.
This chapter analyzes the 2010 reform of Norwegian protected area management, which provided new arenas for influence for the Indigenous Sámi over protected areas on their lands, to explore how discourses of decentralization and participation in nature conservation shape the space for agency of Indigenous peoples. The results show that the discourses governing the reform articulate the relationship between Sámi rights and protected areas in relation to several different concepts, problem representations, and proposed solution, each with potentially different consequences for Sámi participation and influence. The construction of the concept of “participation” in the discourse of protected area management makes it possible to integrate into a system modelled after traditional, centralized organizational structures that prioritize conservation objectives over Sámi rights without fundamentally challenging relationships of power, divisions of responsibilities, or objectives for management. The paper concludes that the Norwegian discourse provides arenas for Sámi influence and participation that could serve as an example for protected area governance and management on Indigenous lands elsewhere, but that the failure to radically reconsider the principal assumptions of protected area discourses risks upholding or reinforcing asymmetrical power relations and colonial stereotypes.