Youth´s Political Participation – Negotiating Leadership in Two Protected Areas in Southwestern Amazonia
Inhabited protected areas have been identified as more resilient to external pressures than uninhabited ones (Charnley et al. 2007; Schleicher et al. 2017; Geldmann et al. 2019). In this regard, community participation has proven to be a powerful tool to reinforce environmental conservation in protected areas (Zhang et al. 2020). Nevertheless, the presence of residents is not enough because without governmental support the “right of the strongest” (Schönenberg 2011) prevails in peripheral regions. Hence, local communities living in protected areas in the Amazon basin are important and the future of culturally diverse communities as well as the biodiverse rainforest depend on each other. However, linking conservation and local development needs remains a key challenge. To meet this challenge, governmental institutions, as well as local communities, have created structures to overcome the sometimescontradictory situations of Amazonian protected areas and to listen to and debate needs, aspirations and demands of the populations. In these moments of debate, different visions of desirable futures emerge, as well as different power relations among community members, and between communities and the government. It is important to bear in mind that neither government institutions, nor community organizations are homogenous. Local communities are often composed of a young majority but are led by elders who have been there since the formation of the communities (and their organizations) and hold the legitimacy to lead territorial management processes. To what extent space is given to the demands of different actors with different attributions in terms of chronological age and gender requires further research and time to understand the processes of dialogue, decision making and the mechanisms of exclusion and inclusion. The aim of this dissertation project is to understand how social and territorial relations shape what it means to be young in two protected areas in the Southwestern Amazon region, one in Bolivia and one in Brazil. Furthermore, I intend to analyse youth leadership and political participation as contested spaces influenced by access to land and resources, as well as an increasing urban-rural mobility. To explore this, I will employ several qualitative methodologies, such as semi-structured interviews and life-histories. Using the semi-structured interviews, I will explore the fuzzy and fluid boundaries of age-based categories, as well as the assumptions and beliefs about age and how these assumptions have an influence on political participation. Life-histories will allow me to identify tools of communication and to understand how political participation created and performed by the young is based on current conditions, as well as on historical processes. Hence the relevance of using this method to learn more about how political participation, ideas of youth and leadership have changed (or not) over time.