Ecological Restoration in “Liquid Societies”

Lessons from Eastern Europe

in Nature and Culture
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  • 1 The Francisc I. Rainer Institute of Anthropology of the Romanian Academy of Sciences stefan.dorondel@antropologia.ro
  • 2 The Institute for Southeast European Studies of the Romanian Academy of Sciences stelu.serban@acadsudest.ro
  • 3 Director, Danube Delta National Institute for Research and Development, Romania marian.tudor@ddni.ro
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Abstract

This article tells the story of possibly the first ecological restoration project in the postsocialist world (1994), which is an example of a broader set of ecological restorations carried out in Eastern Europe. By exploring the two intertwined processes of the ecological restoration of an island in the Danube Delta and the advancement of neoliberal economic ideas through land reform, decollectivization, and land privatization, we contribute to the understanding of ecological restoration in societies in turmoil. We engage a social sciences perspective in order to show the entanglement between ecological restoration processes and institutions, political arrangements, and various forms of land tenure. This theoretical perspective also shows a model all too often present in ecological restoration projects: a proclivity for adopting a neoliberal approach toward administrating natural resources at the expense of local ecological knowledge and the local administration of natural resources.

Contributor Notes

Ștefan Dorondel is an Environmental Anthropologist affiliated with The Francisc I. Rainer Institute of Anthropology of the Romanian Academy of Sciences. He works on deforestation, climate change, and the transformation of the wetlands in modern and contemporary Southeast Europe (particularly Romania and Bulgaria). He is the author of Disrupted Landscapes: State, Peasants and the Politics of Land in Postsocialist Romania (Berghahn Books, 2016) and coauthored with T. Sikor, J. Stahl, and P.T Xuan When Things Become Property: Land Reform, Authority and Value in Postsocialist Europe and Asia (Berghahn Books, 2017). The coedited (with Stelu Şerban) volume manuscript Planners, Experts, Bureaucrats: Transformation of Nature and Economy in European Peripheries is under review at The University of Pittsburgh Press. Email: stefan.dorondel@antropologia.ro

Stelu Șerban is a Sociologist affiliated with The Institute for Southeast European Studies of the Romanian Academy of Sciences. He works on postsocialist transformations in Southeast Europe, everyday life in rural societies, ethnicity, and political ecology. He is the author of Elites, Parties and Political Spectrum in the Interwar Romania (in Romanian, Bucharest, 2006) and coeditor (with Ștefan Dorondel) of the special volume At the Margins of History: Agrarian Question in Southeastern Europe (2014). The coedited (with Ștefan Dorondel) volume manuscript Planners, Experts, Bureaucrats: Transformation of Nature and Economy in European Peripheries is under review at The University of Pittsburgh Press. Email: stelu.serban@acadsudest.ro

Marian Tudor is a Limnologist and Director of the Danube Delta National Institute for Research and Development. He works on limnology, ecosystem ecology, and rivers. He is the editor (with Erika Schneider and Marcel Staraș) of Evolution of Babina Polder after Restoration Works: Ecological Restoration in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve/Romania (Ettlingen, 2008), and coauthor of several articles in international journals, including Journal of Environmental Protection and Ecology, Journal of Soils and Sediments, and Environmental Engineering and Management Journal. Email: marian.tudor@ddni.ro

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