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Enclosing Ecology? Land Conservation and Environmental Statecraft in Chile


This thesis examines the rise of private protected areas in Chile and their relationship to the state’s public protected areas network. Public and private approaches are conceptualized through the framework of nature-capital-state relations, which integrates insights from geographical political economy of nature and capitalist state theory. Though state monopoly of conservation planning has been undercut in recent decades by a variety of non-state actors designing their own interventions, conservation decision-making at the global level is still predominantly influenced by national governments and state-based agencies. Using public land conservation as a lens, I develop the concept of ‘environmental statecraft’ to explain how and why states manage their territorial environments to strategic effect. I draw on archival and historical evidence to argue that land protection in Chile is aimed at reproducing state interests as much as, if not more than, advancing biodiversity outcomes. Ultimately, I suggest that private protected areas emerged in response to the state’s conservation logics and behavior. By framing public land conservation as a practice of environmental statecraft, this thesis calls attention to the need to theorize the state in relation to nature, and specifically to see nature as both constitutive and consequential of the state and state power.

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