There is a rapidly developing literature on the 'human dimensions' of conservation, including critical scholarship and applied research that aims to improve practice. However, this work has largely neglected to systematically examine the role of labor in conservation despite its central importance to the day-to-day operations and management of conservation projects, to rural livelihoods and wellbeing in local communities, to conservation conflicts and project failures, and to broader understandings of conservation in relation to globalization, production and consumption.

CONLAB fills this gap using a multi-sited mixed-method ethnographic approach to systematically and comparatively study how biodiversity conservation affects labor dynamics across axes of social difference and hierarchies of wage labour. We are developing and refining a novel theoretical framework for understanding local labor dynamics associated with biodiversity conservation projects as manifestations of an international conservation labor regime. Understanding this is of urgent practical and policy relevance to ensure that biodiversity conservation is ecologically effective while contributing to socially and economically just local development.

The research for this project uses ethnography, semi-structured interviews and oral histories to gain a deep understanding of labour dynamics across sites in the Global South and Global North. These sites are yet to be fully determined, but are likely to include India, Madagascar, Kenya, Norway and UK. This research is complemented by a socio-economic and demographic survey deployed in focus sites and more widely.