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Title: Białowieża Forest : social function and social power
Author: Franklin, Stuart
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2001
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Research has concentrated on understanding social function and social power in Bialowieza Forest in northeastern Poland. It has attempted to analyse, from the standpoint of political ecology, the value that people, both locally and further afield, place (and have placed) on the forest. And it has struggled to understand how the machinations of power have enabled or disabled such values to be expressed. Over the past ten years Bialowieza Forest has been the site of a particular conflict concerning the enlargement of the existing national park to encompass the whole forest. For some who have moved to Bialowieza from other regions of Poland, the forest is as a Renaissance painting that should not be altered and a laboratory where scientific experiments can be conducted and through which income, from home and abroad, can be generated from project funding and support from international NGOs. At the same time it is (apparently) subject to man's present 'destruction and deterioration'. My principal arguments remain that (i) far from being a pristine 'primeval forest' Bialowieza is a thoroughly logged-over forest that has borne man's influence, in various ways, since at least the sixth century; (ii) that far from being subject to present 'destruction and deterioration' it has, for the past 50 years, been actively restored by foresters after considerable devastation in the 1930s and 30s; and finally (iii) that the social construction of the forest has served to dispossess and alienate local people (mostly Belorussian) living around the forest whose cultural and economic base is currently threatened. I argue that there is little value in discussing the social construction of nature without, at the same time, examining the strategies of political actors that enlist such social constructions as tools in the normal struggle for power at the local, national and supranational scale. To this end I examine the cultural and scientific roots of the national park movement, the dispute over the forest both in terms of utility and through perception and representation. I examine the economic history of the forest. I analyse the legitimacy of those involved in contestation and those who seek to utilise the forest in particular ways. Further, I examine issues of governance and law. Whilst I recognise that research on access to, and management of, forests and national parks today is not unique, I believe this work holds value for its focus (in a European context) not simply on the forest struggle as a locality issue, but on how the struggle is enriched by ideological and representational practices that operate across time and space. Such practices form the scope and inform the principal arguments in this thesis.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Political ecology ; Poland