Containment and counter-containment: planner/community relations in conservation planning

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Critical analyses of public involvement in conservation projects in developing countries commonly point toward imbalances of power between project agencies and communities and the persistence of top-down patterns of decision-making. Taking an actor-oriented research approach, this paper probes beneath the surface patterns to analyse the complex socio-political mechanisms at work in the negotiating arena represented by public participation in project planning. The discussion is based on a case study of community involvement in the planning of protected areas in Belize. Detailed analysis of the power relations and tactical interactions between different actors in the negotiating arenas revealed that planner/community relations in the case study were dominated by a process identified as 'containment'. Containment refers to a strategic management of public involvement by the planning agencies, and it hinged on three fundamental social actions: avoidance of conflict; exclusion of dissent; and control over knowledge and procedure. Actions by local stakeholders that served to undermine containment constitute 'counter-containment'. The paper discusses these mechanisms in depth, before developing a comparative analytical framework of containment and counter-containment to help explain disparities in planning progress between different sites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-124
Number of pages14
JournalThe Geographical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2001


  • Belize
  • Community participation
  • Containment
  • Power relations
  • Protected areas

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