Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Emily T. Yeh

Second Advisor

Julia A. Klein

Third Advisor

Mara Goldman

Abstract

This dissertation investigates China’s tuimu huancao and destocking policy under a Compensation for Ecosystem Services program as a case study of how “received wisdom” environmental degradation narratives are used to justify state interventions into the livelihoods of minority pastoralists. Tuimu huancao calls for grazing bans and restrictions by fencing for the purpose of restoring purportedly degraded rangeland and protecting rangeland. The destocking policy is intended to adjust herd size to carrying capacity through a reward mechanism for the purpose of protecting rangeland.

It examines the scientific and theoretical foundations of these two policies and the way in which they are understood, received, negotiated, and contested in multiple ways through a case study from Nagchu Prefecture, Tibet. The framework for analyzing these two programs as state interventions draws from and contributes to political ecology. Field research of an ethnographic study used a mix of methods that included detailed household surveys, in-depth, semi-structured interviews, oral histories, focus groups, transect walks, participatory mapping and participant observation.

This dissertation argues that tuimu huancao and the destocking policy ultimately have the effect more of intensifying existing policy directions that transform traditional pastoralism than of mitigating rangeland degradation, restoration and protection. Hence, narratives of rangeland degradation underpinning tuimu huancao and the destocking policy serve to justify state interventions that aim to achieve this goal of transforming traditional pastoralism. Furthermore, broadly defined political and economic forces maintain the persistence of “received wisdom” on pastoralism and prevent alternative perspectives to existing policy directions from emerging. This dissertation also argues that Tibetan pastoralism can be well adapted to state interventions based on a middle way approach that accommodates both development and the livestock components of pastoralism. Nonetheless, the dissertation demonstrates that the formation of such a policy will not be easy because it will be a political process and can be jeopardized by officials’ vested political and economic interests.

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