The University of Arizona

Governing the ungovernable: contesting and reworking REDD+ in Indonesia

Abidah B. Setyowati


Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus the role of conservation, sustainable forest management, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+) has rapidly become a dominant approach in mitigating climate change. Building on the Foucauldian governmentality literature and drawing on a case study of Ulu Masen Project in Aceh, Indonesia, this article examines the practices of subject making through which REDD+ seeks to enroll local actors, a research area that remains relatively underexplored. It interrogates the ways in which local actors react, resist or maneuver within these efforts, as they negotiate multiple subject positions. Interviews and focus group discussions combined with an analysis of documents show that the subject making processes proceed at a complex conjuncture constituted and shaped by political, economic and ecological conditions within the context of Aceh. The findings also suggest that the agency of communities in engaging, negotiating and even contesting the REDD+ initiative is closely linked to the history of their prior engagement in conservation and development initiatives. Communities are empowered by their participation in REDD+, although not always in the ways expected by project implementers and conservation and development actors. Furthermore, communities' political agency cannot be understood by simply examining their resistance toward the initiative; these communities have also been skillful in playing multiple roles and negotiating different subjectivities depending on the situations they encounter.

Keywords: REDD+, subject-making, agency, resistance, Indonesia, Aceh

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