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Biocultural nation making: Biopolitics, cultural-territorial belonging, and national protected areas

Biocultural nation making: Biopolitics, cultural-territorial belonging, and national protected areas


Published on March 5, 2021

Dahdaleh Institute Postdoctoral Fellow James Stinson recently co-authored a published paper which advances the concept of biocultural nation making.

While the academic literature on biopolitics has investigated how the life of the population and its biological capacities have increasingly become the target of political concern and intervention largely at the scale of the nation, the literature on nations and nationalism has explored nations as cultural-territorial units including questions of their emergence, ongoing production, and impacts. What these share is a similar if not nearly identical object of analysis: the nation or national population. These, however, are realms of scholarly debate that have largely, and quite surprisingly, bypassed one another. The paper bridges various debates and illustrate that nation making is at once biological and cultural-territorial, and deeply intertwined. The authors ground this in the experience of Canadian national parks, highlighting how “natural” environments like national parks are key sites of biocultural, and increasingly neoliberal, national production. Here, state conservation organizations promote park visitation as a means of, first, enabling an active, healthy, and economically productive national population. Second, parks are promoted on the grounds that they enable the experience of distinctively Canadian landscapes and places of national inclusion especially as park visitorship is expanded to include nontraditional visitors including immigrants, urban communities, and the youth. Therefore the authors argue, Parks have become vehicles of biocultural, and increasingly neoliberal, nation making. While there are indeed affirmative aspects to this, the paper highlight hidden exclusions tied to the embrace of neoliberal logic, the limits of multiculturalism, and the ongoing erasure of Indigenous communities.


Planetary Health



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James Stinson, Postdoctoral Fellow, Planetary Health & Education

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