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Andrew Paul

UGA Arch
Graduate Student

My research engages with protected areas declared by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, often called ICCAs or Territories of Life. With experience working in Indigenous conservation both with Indigenous Karen people in Southeast Asia and First Nations in Canada, I have returned to the academy to pursue further research with the Salween Peace Park, a large ICCA being developed by the Karen people in the autonomous territory of Kawthoolei on the border between Thailand and Burma (Myanmar) in Southeast Asia.

My research builds upon collaborative work begun in 2014, when I was an intern with the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN). With KESAN, I became involved in a community-based research project to articulate the Karen customary land governance institution known as Kaw. This grew into research for my MA thesis at York University (2018): ‘With the Salween Peace Park, We Can Survive as a Nation’: Karen Environmental Relations and the Politics of an Indigenous Conservation Initiative.

In my doctoral studies, I plan to continue building upon work begun during my MA. My research employs an ontological approach to engage Karen relations with the more-than-human world, including the spirit owners of the land, and the ways in which these relations shape what might be considered Karen environmental governance. With my community-based colleagues, I continue to grapple with the challenges of translating and articulating these relationships to promote wider respect and recognition of Karen Indigenous conservation practice. I also engage Indigenous political theory to understand the Salween Peace Park as a Karen Indigenous political project within the context of the ongoing Karen struggle for autonomy.

In the face of increasing state violence in Burma leading up to and following the military coup d’état on February 1, 2021, the three-part vision of the Salween Peace Park is more vital than ever: 1) to articulate and implement local Karen villagers’ vision for peace and self-determination; 2) to promote and maintain Indigenous Karen cultural traditions and relationships with the land; and 3) to protect the lands, waters, forests, and exceptional biodiversity of northern Kawthoolei.

My goal in pursuing doctoral studies in Integrative Conservation and Anthropology is to further develop my personal capacity to support the Salween Peace Park and similar Indigenous-led conservation initiatives that uphold Indigenous sovereignty, self-determination, and multi-faceted relationships with ancestral lands.

Of note:

Select community research products:

Academic publication:

Masters thesis:

  • 2018. “With the Salween Peace Park, We Can Survive as a Nation”: Karen Environmental Relations and the Politics of an Indigenous Conservation Initiative. Unpublished MA Thesis, York University, Toronto, Canada.

Select academic conference presentations:

  • 2020. [with Saw John Bright]. “Salween Peace Park: An Indigenous Grassroots Alternative to Militarized Development in Karen State, Myanmar.” Workshop on Commons, Post-Development and Degrowth in Asia, hosted online by the International Association for the Study of the Commons and the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, 20 July 2020
  • 2019. "'With the Salween Peace Park, We Can Survive as a Nation': Mobilizing Power for Resistance through an Indigenous Conservation Initiative." 34th Conference of the Canadian Council for Southeast Asia Studies (CCSEAS), Montréal, QC, 26 October 2019
  • 2019. "More-than-Human Agency and Karen Environmental Relations: Lessons for Collaborative TEK Research." Transforming Approaches to Forests and Forestry Conference, Vancouver, BC, 22 August 2019
  • 2019. "Voices from the Invisible World: Role of Spirits in Traditional Karen Conservation Practice." 42nd Conference of the Society for Ethnobiology, Vancouver, BC, 10 May 2019

News article/blog:

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