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Entangling Molecules: an ethnography of a carbon offset project in Madagascar’s eastern rainforest

PENA-VALDERRAMA, SARA (2016) Entangling Molecules: an ethnography of a carbon offset project in Madagascar’s eastern rainforest. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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In this dissertation I explore the multiple social lives of ‘carbon’ as key object of contemporary forms of global environmental governance. Through an ethnography of a forest carbon project, I detail the many forms that ‘carbon’ takes as it is deployed in a small locality in the forests of Madagascar.
TAMS was a forest carbon project that ran for two decades in eastern Madagascar. Its aim was to reforest degraded fallows from slash-and-burn agriculture, or tavy, and to provide farmers with alternative livelihoods through the benefits obtained from the sale of carbon credits. Carried out by major conservation organisations, international institutions and the Malagasy government, TAMS was once hailed as a pilot carbon project for the whole of Africa. Six years after reforestation began, however, it came to a halt due to a series of complications and it was abandoned.
My ethnography focuses on a series of glimpses into ‘carbon’ in its many guises as part of TAMS. This leads me to an analysis of the ways in which carbon credits are produced by, and at the same time re-articulate, ideas of value and waste in relation to forests and tavy; the peculiar materiality of ‘carbon’ as natural resource and form of labour; the experiences of ‘carbon’ as an instance of state oppression for farmers; and the complexity that arises from project actors’ efforts to turn grounded trees into mobile carbon credits. All along, we see how, far from the bounded CO2 molecule, the ‘carbon’ of forest carbon projects is not a fixed or stable object, but rather appears and disappears in multiple ways through diverse material and discursive practices. My aim is to show how specific forms of ‘carbon’—in their articulation of people’s relationships to each other and to their environments—open or foreclose particular socio-natural futures.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:30 Mar 2016 16:53

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