A natural life: neo-rurals and the power of everyday practices in protected areas



The worldwide expansion of nature conservation initiatives has attracted a great deal of attention among political ecologists. Concerned about the effects on people and the environment, critical scholars have attempted to identify the drivers of conservation, and how power operates. Conservation policies, practices and conflicts have generated a large literature about the role of states, expert bureaucracies, private corporations, NGOs and technologies of government. In this article I aim to extend this literature by paying attention to a largely neglected field of power relations, defined by the efforts made by new inhabitants of natural protected areas, who have moved to these new locations and have strived to construct and maintain an idyll wherein they can enjoy a new, 'natural life.' Using Bourdieu's notions of cultural capital and habitus, I demonstrate that, in certain places, it is in the everyday practices of making a natural protected area a new home where power relations unfold more subtly, although no less intensely. I illustrate this empirically with a particular case study: the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park in southeastern Spain. I examine the role played by neo-rurals in the establishment of this protected area, present an ethnographic account of their everyday practices, and link them to the conflicts that have emerged with other social groups, with whom they compete for the right to use and access local resources.

Keywords: Conservation, political ecology, protected areas, neo-rurals, power, Europe

How to Cite: Cortes-Vazquez, J. A. (2014) “A natural life: neo-rurals and the power of everyday practices in protected areas”, Journal of Political Ecology. 21(1). doi: