What makes a national park? Multiple environmentalities and politics of scale in governing Laos’ protected areas

Related GLP Member: Joel Persson, Ole Mertz, Jonas Nielsen


The multiple environmentalities framework has been used to disentangle the diverse rationalities of governance that underpin contemporary environmental governance programmes. Often missing from such analyses is a networked and scalar dimension that can provide a basis for understanding the structural dimensions of environmental governance and the contingent expressions of multiple environmentalities. Here, we draw on insights from politics of scale to present a framework for analysing the multiple environmentalities of environmental governance in protected areas. We focus on the construction of Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park in Lao PDR, drawing on document analysis and semi-structured interviews with multi-level actor groups. We show how conservation interventions rationalised on neoliberal environmentalities produce novel discursive and material mechanisms for extending sovereign environmentalities, for instance via contractual obligations and via project designs that necessitate social fragmentation. In addition, by presenting case studies of multiple environmentalities in three village sites, we demonstrate how interactions generate contestations and lead to new entanglements for residents, resulting in geographically and socially uneven manifestations of conservation programmes. We urge further attention to how competing scale-making projects interact to shape the practices of environmental governance and the fragmented nature through which environmental subjects are formed.