EVENT Oct 05
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International Scientific Conference ‘Protected Areas and Local Communities: Exploring the Challenges of Nature Conservation and Human Well-being’ (hybrid)

Sofia, Bulgaria
Organization: Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
Categories: Comparative
Event Date: 2023-10-05 to 2023-10-06 Abstract Due: 2023-06-15

The team of the project “Life in Protected Zones and Areas: Challenges, Conflicts, Benefits” (funded by the Bulgarian National Science Fund, Contr. No ??-06-?40/12) is pleased to invite you to take part in the International Scientific Conference 'Protected Areas and Local Communities: Exploring the Challenges of Nature Conservation and Human Well-being'  which is to be held on 5th and 6th October 2023 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Host of the event is the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (project leading organization). The conference is designed to be hybrid (in-person and online participation).

The loss of biodiversity and depletion of natural resources with which people have closely linked their way of life have been one of the global issues for at least several decades. That is why the political agenda of our time brings to the fore the expansion of the areas placed under different conservation regimes. To date, more than 15% of the earth’s surface falls within the frames of protected natural areas. In many cases, those areas are not uninhabited by humans, what is more, the increase in protected areas in recent decades happens precisely by including places inhabited by humans and in close proximity to their settlements. In the age of the Anthropocene, when human impact is seen as a main cause of change in the surrounding world, it is important to study both the challenges and opportunities in managing protected areas and the needs and perspectives of the local communities.

Examples from different parts of the world show that the imposition of an institutional regime of conservation upon certain natural site is always accompanied by changes in land use rights and in the forms of resource consumption. For example, the inclusion within a protected area of territories historically used for hunting, gathering of wild plants, logging, grazing or farming limits or even prohibits these activities. On the other hand, opportunities and incentives for alternative economic and social activities are emerging. All this is related to significant transformations in the everyday life and livelihood of people whose settlements are located within or in close proximity to protected areas.

Research problems:
Among the problems we wish to draw attention to are (but are not limited to) the following:
– Notions and definitions of “nature” of the local people and the actors involved in the defining and management of protected areas;
– Perceptions of “natural capital” and the achievement of well-being: attitudes towards the commons and their use;
– Local views and assessments of the human activities’ imprint on nature (“modified nature”);
– Conflicts between local residents and administrations of protected areas and NGOs;
– Social movements and resistance against redefining and correcting the boundaries and protection regimes of protected areas;
– Use of “local knowledge” and practices in the management of protected areas;
– Strategies and approaches to involve local communities in activities of conservation of habitats and biodiversity;
– Taking advantage of the opportunities created by protected areas (work in institutions involved in the management of a given protected area, participation in NGOs and implementation of projects for the protection of habitats and biodiversity, development of various forms of ecological tourism);
– Rhetorical use of protected area as an argument in protests against industrial, mining, and road projects in the settlements’ vicinity.

By this forum, we would like to discuss the above-mentioned problems that we have been researching for the last three years in Bulgaria, placing them in a wider European and/or global context. Therefore, we direct our invitation to a wide range of researchers from various scientific disciplines related to the topic – environmental anthropology, human geography, socioecology, ecological economics, etc. We welcome proposals for theoretical and empirical presentations as well as case studies from different regions of the world. We encourage participation of scholars at all stages of their careers, including PhD students and post-docs.

To apply for participation, you need to send an abstract (200–250 words), accompanied by a title and up to 5 keywords, as well as the name of the author(s), institutional affiliation, contact email and a brief biographical note (up to 150 words). We kindly ask you to indicate as well which participation option you prefer – in-person or online (this is not related to the selection procedure). Please send your proposals to the following email: protected.territories@gmail.com.

Financial terms:
There is no participation fee, the expenses for the coffee breaks and materials provided during the two days of the conference will be covered by the project budget. However, the participants should financially ensure their travel and stay (in case of in-person participation).

Important dates:
– June 15, 2023: deadline for the submission of proposals;
– July 20, 2023: deadline for informing the authors of the accepted proposals;
– September 1, 2023: deadline for the participants to inform the organizers about the final form of participation (in-person or online);
– September 15, 2023: the participants shall receive the programme of the conference;
– October 05 – 06, 2023: dates of the conference.

We are looking forward to your proposals and hoping to see you in Sofia!

Organizing Committee:
Assist. Prof. Ivaylo Markov, Ph.D.
Assist. Prof. Violeta Periklieva, Ph.D.
Assoc. Prof. Vihra Barova, Ph.D.
Assist. Prof. Nacho Dimitrov, Ph.D.



Ivaylo Markov