On resistance, arborescent or rhyzomatic (a test case from New Caledonia): Leah S. Horowitz, ‘Rhizomic Resistance Meets Arborescent Assemblage: UNESCO World Heritage and the Disempowerment of Indigenous Activism in New Caledonia’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 2015

15Nov15

Abstract: This article draws on Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of arborescent and rhizomic assemblages to examine encounters between large-scale conservation and grassroots resistance to industry. I explore how the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage listing of New Caledonia’s reefs contributed to the demise of Rhéébù Nùù, an indigenous activist group that had been targeting a multinational mining project. I also interrogate how an assemblage’s form enables certain modalities of power while constraining others and how these differences in power modalities inform relationships between types of assemblages. Mistakenly expecting assistance in protecting their coral reef from mining impacts, Rhéébù Nùù relinquished the coercive power inherent to their rhizomic form in favor of participation in UNESCO’s arborescent structure via World Heritage “management committees”—a globally promoted, but locally inappropriate, comanagement diagram that targeted local fishing activities despite an absence of overfishing. Thus, this article argues that rhizomic structures have unique means of influence, exercised through particular modalities of power, which might be lost through cooptation into arborescent assemblages that exercise different modalities of power and might employ locally inappropriate diagrams. Ultimately, conservation does not only result in the extension of state powers, as the literature has shown; as this study demonstrates, it can surreptitiously support the extension of environmentally damaging industrial development at the expense of grassroots action.



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