Philippe Le Billon

Professor

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Capillaries of capital: space, power, and fossil fuel flows in the colonial present (2019)

No abstract available.

Growing political : how forest-related violence shapes community-based forest management in Cambodia (2018)

Community-based forest management (CBFM) projects support communities to take a central role in managing their local forests. Communities are asked to enforce the exclusion of illegitimate forest users and prevent illicit extraction of forest resources. However, the practices that CBFM aims to reduce (deforestation and illicit extraction of forest resources) are often facilitated by the use of direct violence. In seeking to reduce these practices, some participants in CBFM experience violent conflicts over forest use (hereafter, forest-related violence). Such violence presents a threat to the lives and human rights of CBFM participants and has the potential to undermine the effective implementation of forest conservation activities. Yet, the extent of forest-related violence in community-managed forests, exactly how it manifests, who is involved, or the outcomes of such violence for CBFM participants and their CBFM practices are not well known. This dissertation explores these issues in the case study country of Cambodia. I draw on data collected between May and December 2015 through a national survey of eighteen NGOs involved in CBFM in Cambodia, semi-structured interviews with one hundred and fifty participants in forty CBFM sites, and participant observation in forest patrols and CBFM training sessions. I demonstrate that forest-related violence is widespread across Cambodia affecting seventy-five per cent of CBFM groups interviewed and seventy-two per cent of NGOs surveyed. I argue that these ‘incidents’ of violence are not discrete but, rather, are the manifestation of a succession of violent processes in which Cambodia’s neopatrimonial socio-political system is central. Furthermore, neopatrimonialism facilitates processes of structural and symbolic violence that preclude effective responses to direct forest-related violence. As a consequence, forest-related violence acts as a disciplinary mechanism inciting fear and undermining the effectiveness of CBFM practices. Yet, it also acts as a catalyst for the re-politicization of CBFM practices and re-conceptualization of CBFM participants’ relationships with the environment, other forest users, and the government. Thus, this dissertation directs attention to the lived experience of forest-related violence and exposes the ‘tomorrow of violence’ – the enduring legacies of violence that configure the way people conceptualize themselves, their government, and the international development community.

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Protecting places for nature, people, and peace: a critical socio-legal review of transboundary conservation areas (2018)

No abstract available.

Geographies of settler colonial dispossession : rejecting gold and prosperity on Tsilhqot'in territory (2016)

My objective in this thesis is to trace how mining laws politically inscribe Indigenous space and territory. In doing so I situate gold mining regulations as central to Canadian settler colonialism and the legal dispossession of Indigenous land. I examine the origins of British Columbia’s mineral staking regulations and juxtapose these historical regulations with those today in order to outline two distinct, but comparatively relevant moments. The first moment is the writing of mining laws in 1858 and 1859, during the formation of the region as a settler colony. I illustrate how the British Crown enacted a system of free entry mineral staking that negated Indigenous sovereignty over resources. The dispossession of land was central to the functioning of colonial mining regulations, and reveals this regulation was and continues to be complicit in reproducing uneven geographies. The second moment is in the contemporary era, and focuses specifically on a mining company’s New Prosperity copper-gold mine proposal on Tsilhqot’in territory at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake). I outline how the environmental assessment process for this mine gave limited but significant space to Indigenous people as participants and decision makers. The mine was rejected based on a panel report written through the guidelines established in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This rejection represents a major victory for the Tsilhqot’in, who remain adamantly opposed to mining at Fish Lake. This decision, though, still rests within the colonial legal framework, and is not a sovereign decision by the Tsilhqot’in. Ultimately, I argue that the dispossession of land is a central tenet of how mineral regulations function through an examination of the everyday enactments of resource regulation, and the resultant resistance, rejection, and refusal of Indigenous people to accept settler colonial terms of engagement. In contemporary Canada these terms of engagement, including environmental assessment, are couched in the politics of recognition and reconciliation that fail to address the fundamental property relation mechanized through Western legal structures.

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Neoliberalizing violence : (post)Marxian political economy, poststructuralism, and the production of space in 'postconflict' Cambodia (2009)

In spite of a United Nations sponsored transition to democracy and peace in the early 1990s, violence remains a ubiquitous feature of the Cambodian landscape in the posttransitional era. Contra the commonplace Orientalist renderings that suggest an inherently violent and authoritarian culture underpins Cambodia's failure to consolidate democracy and its ongoing encounters with violence, this study advances an alternative interpretation. Combining (post)Marxian and poststructural theoretical approaches, this study proceeds as a (post)anarchist critique through a series of distinct yet thematically connected chapters that examine the intersections between neoliberalism and violence, and the (re)productions of space that both result from and contribute to their entanglement. This critical approach reveals how neoliberalization plays a paramount role in the continuation of violent geographies in Cambodia's contemporary political economy. The first half of this study theorizes the geographies of neoliberalism and violence through an analysis of the discursive procession of neoliberalism and the imaginative geographies that position it as the sole providence of nonviolence. In orienting itself as a 'civilizing' project, neoliberalism as discourse actively manufactures the misrecognition of its violences. Struggles over public space are viewed as a necessary reaction against such symbolic violence, allowing us to relate similar constellations of experiences across space as a potential basis for emancipation, and thereby quicken the pace at which neoliberalism recedes into history. The second half of this study examines the violent geographies of neoliberalism in 'postconflict' Cambodia, bringing empirical focus to the (re)visualizations, (re)administrations, and (re)materializations of space that have informed the neoliberalization of violence in the country. The pretext of security under which marketization proceeded, the asphyxiation of democratic politics through ordered productions of space, the discursive obfuscations of the 'culture of violence' thesis, and Cambodia's ongoing encounters with primitive accumulation are all revealed to inform the exceptional and exemplary violences of neoliberalization. Ultimately, this study illuminates the multiplicity of ways in which the processes of neoliberalization are suffused with violence. A critical appraisal of neoliberalism's capacity for violence can open geographical imaginations to the possibility of (re)producing space in ways that make possible a transformative and emancipatory politics.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Lessons from the canyon : Aboriginal engagement in the Enbridge Northern Gateway environmental assessment (2011)

This thesis examines the environmental assessment for the proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines project, focusing on Aboriginal concerns with the process. Northern Gateway is a highly contentious oil pipeline that would link the Tar Sands in Alberta to the BC coast in Kitimat, in an effort to ship Canadian crude to Asia. I focus on the extent and quality of First Nations’ participation in the EA and its meaningful acknowledgement of Aboriginal rights and ontologies. Environmental assessment in Canada has become an important space for the negotiation of Aboriginal rights though it was never intended as such and is wrought with criticism. I present this analysis within a post-colonial framework, grounded in political ecology, political ontology and posthumanism. It is important to understand the case of Northern Gateway in BC today within a broader analysis of a legacy of colonialism, and colonial relationships. To explore these issues, I center on the experience of one Aboriginal organization, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, in Smithers BC, which is publicly opposed to Northern Gateway.

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Fair Trade certification and social determinants of health : the case of coffee producers in Rwanda (2010)

Health of individuals and populations is now understood to be strongly influenced by social conditions and structures, yet health policy remains focused on addressing individual medical and behavioural factors instead of the more fundamental social factors that determine health. Without policies that address the social causes of health, there is a risk of not only imposing interventions that are ineffective, but also missing opportunities to adopt broader societal interventions that could produce significant health benefits for populations. For small-scale agricultural producers, one way to improve the social determinants of health is through certification systems that use production standards, monitoring, certification and labelling to identify and reward items produced under exemplary social conditions. This thesis examines the effects of Fair Trade certification, one of the most established product certification systems, on producers in order to understand its effectiveness as a market-based tool for improving the health of populations. A meta-study of the Fair Trade literature finds evidence that Fair Trade certification positively affects producer health through three main processes: improvement of material conditions (physical capital); better education (human capital); and more extended and robust social networks (social capital). Yet the research design of the reviewed studies limits the ability to conclude that benefits are the effects of certification and not associated with prior cooperative organization resulting in the adoption of certification. These shortcomings in research design were addressed through a case study of Fair Trade certified coffee producers in Rwanda. Given the importance of social structure for health outcomes, the study tested the relative importance of Fair Trade certification versus cooperative organization for producer-level social capital. Regression analyses of farmer survey data and interview responses indicate that both Fair Trade certification and cooperative organization are associated with dimensions of social capital. It seems that prior social organization matters more than certification, and how much more depends on a farmer’s particular experience of his/her producer organization. The research suggests that government and non-governmental organizations may help ensure positive effects of Fair Trade certification on the social determinants of health of producers through interventions that strengthen cooperative producer organizations.

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Current Students & Alumni

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