Between the Tree and the Bark: The Politics of Boreal Forest Imaginaries in the Abitibi region, Québec, Canada
This thesis examines the politics of managing the boreal forest in the Abitibi region of Québec in Canada. It pays particular attention to how the plurality of forest users produces multiple forest imaginaries that are involved in the constitution of the micropolitics of quotidian practices of the forest. The aim is to show how different forest imaginaries and their politics could inform current forest management and open up other possibilities for the governance of, and relationships with, the boreal forest. By investigating the power relationships involved in the production of boreal forest politics, this work shows how forestry science and ecology have established and exercised their authority over how the forest is imagined and experienced. This territoriality has been articulated through discourses and practices that promote dominant industrial relationships with the forest which undermine other ways of imagining the relationships between forest users and non-humans. Engaging with post-structuralism theory, phenomenology and political ecology, I demonstrate how the multiplicity of forest users comes to know and experience the boreal forest in various and unstructured ways which destabilise efforts to imagine and construct the forest as a static entity. By paying attention to everyday life practices of various forest users, I show how contestations and negotiations about different imaginaries and places of the boreal forest are interrelated and mutually constituted. These practices and the imaginaries that they construct work together to produce the forest as an open space which is capable of embodying a wide range of meanings. By investigating how the boreal forest is constituted by various unstable imaginary places and politics, I argue that the current territoriality and politics produced by the imbrication of forestry science and industrial forestry should be challenged by another form of governance. This new form of governance needs to acknowledge the relational quality of imaginaries and to democratize the politics of the forest. By showing how abstract concepts such as relational politics can become implemented in current forest policies, the significance of institutions that are already in place and that can serve to embody other politics of the forest is highlighted. Apart from contributing to political ecology and environmental politics, the findings of this research show that political projects which can seem utopian at first glance have the potential to become tangible agents of social and environmental change.