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Consuming the Forest in an Environment of Crisis: Nature Tourism, Forest Conservation and Neoliberal Agriculture in South India

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This article engages ethnographically with the neoliberalization of nature in the spheres of tourism, conservation and agriculture. Drawing on a case study of Wayanad district, Kerala, the article explores a number of themes. First, it shows how a boom in domestic nature tourism is currently transforming Wayanad into a landscape for tourist consumption. Second, it examines how tourism in Wayanad articulates with projects of neoliberalizing forest and wildlife conservation and with their contestations by subaltern groups. Third, it argues that the contemporary commodification of nature in tourism and conservation is intimately related to earlier processes of commodifying nature in agrarian capitalism. Since independence, forest land has been violently appropriated for intensive cash‐cropping. Capitalist agrarian change has transformed land into a (fictitious) commodity and produced a fragile and contested frontier of agriculture and wildlife. When agrarian capitalism reached its ecological limits and entered a crisis of accumulation, farming became increasingly speculative, exploring new modes of accumulation in out‐of‐state ginger cultivation. In this scenario nature and wildlife tourism emerges as a new prospect for accumulation in a post‐agrarian economy. The neoliberalization of nature in Wayanad, the authors argue, is a process driven less by new modes of regulation than by the agrarian crisis and new modes of speculative farming.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: . In the past he has worked on post-colonial theory and village politics in Tamil Nadu. He is currently working on farmers’ suicides, agrarian and environmental change in Kerala. 2: ), and a Research Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Munich. Her current work focuses on forest and wildlife conservation and human–animal relations in Kerala.

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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