HomeNature under contract. Concessions, history and the environment

Nature under contract. Concessions, history and the environment

La nature sous contrat. Concessions, histoire et environnement

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Published on Monday, June 17, 2019 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

Over the past few years, historians have shown great interest in the forms of collective or individual possessions and the relationships they establish with their environment. Since the use of natural resources and the transformation of environments depend largely on the forms of ownership, the relationship between ownership—in its various forms—and the environment is the subject of intense debates and fruitful research. A large number of research projects are guided by questions such as: how are natural resources exploited and how are historical actors organized so as to avoid or mitigate potential conflicts? What are the best strategies to ensure the long-term exploitation of natural resources?. These approaches all point towards a focal issue: the relationships between the legal forms of ownership and the conditions of environmental construction.

Announcement

Argument

Over the past few years, historians have shown great interest in the forms of collective or individual possessions and the relationships they establish with their environment. Since the use of natural resources and the transformation of environments depend largely on the forms of ownership, the relationship between ownership—in its various forms—and the environment is the subject of intense debates and fruitful research. A large number of research projects are guided by questions such as: how are natural resources exploited and how are historical actors organized so as to avoid or mitigate potential conflicts? What are the best strategies to ensure the long-term exploitation of natural resources?. These approaches all point towards a focal issue: the relationships between the legal forms of ownership and the conditions of environmental construction.

Among the various legal and financial tools that are at the intersection between the environment and property is the concession. The concession allows for the historicization of the notion of ownership, whose origin has long been a philosophical issue, and to address the joint notion of appropriation itself. In legal matters, a concession is, according to the Académie française, “a contract by which the administration entrusts an individual with the management of a public service [and/or] the execution of a public work.” The concession has commercial implications, but it can also be a transfer of ownership without any capital implications. The concession is limited in time and the procedures through which they are granted are regularly renewed. But, in practice, the concession refers to the resource, the site or the territory over which this right is exercised. At the heart of this ongoing effort to historicize concession is the fact that the legal dimension does not account for the full meaning of the term:the conceding party seeks to appease a debate or a dispute and, very often, responds to a request. In this sense, the concession is political; it is anchored in a social universe. It is also a means to serve a strategy, such as territorial occupation or the assertion of sovereignty.

Since the word appeared in the 13th century, the concession has been a tool regularly used by the authorities, particularly in the context of economic development policies. Well identified in the mining sector, but also in the construction of infrastructures and agricultural expansion, the concession has attracted the attention of economic and business historians. Although concessions vary depending on the period, sector of application, legal system and natural environment concerned, it is generally a tool used by a sovereign power to counter its inability to finance/fund infrastructures or operations. The reasons behind this delegation (which is different from the "public service delegation") combine the need to develop facilities, corporate entrepreneurship, and the lack of sovereign authority funds. The mechanisms put in place shape the relationship between the state and its citizens through the various forms of delegation chosen.

The historical approach to concessions, especially from the point of view of economic policy, reveals that nature and its resources are often at the centre of the delegates’ interests. From the Middle Ages onwards, mines were exploited under the concession regime. In many respects, franchises for agricultural conquests were also part of this movement: political authorities used them to populate land that was largely beyond their control. Colonial concessions also had major environmental implications, such as silviculture and the extraction of raw materials, but also in matters related to animal biodiversity. The concessionary regime accompanied the commodification of nature. Acting as a powerful lever, it gave monetary value to natural resources.  

The objective of this conference is to shed historical light on the role of the concessionaire regime in transforming and shaping the environment At a time when resources are shrinking in our consumption-driven economies, to the point that scholars talk of extractivism or predation, it is important to historicize this ever-evolving system.  

Although it adopts a historical entry as a priority, the conference is open to all social sciences. Its mains objectives are:

  • Contextualise the concession as a mode of exploitation of the environment in order to make both temporal and geographical comparisons, in different national and colonial contexts.
  • Analyse the legal-economic tool as such, the legal discourse thus created and its effects, and the link that the concession established in the structures of the economy (alienation of the domain, accumulation of capital, transfers of ownership, monopolies, economics of contracts, rejection of regulators) and between social structures.
  • Explore the different forms of concessions, including those that may have been born from use and on the types of areas regularly affected by the joint concession system, the perimeters of these concessions: water, mines, shorelines, land, forests, transport, public and hydraulic works, etc.
  • Analyse the history of the word, its etymology, its cultural circulations, its imaginaries, by questioning the historical myths and reconstructions that legitimize the concession and naturalize its existence.
  • Analyse forms of resistance to concessions, whether theoretical or by local residents excluded from their properties or uses. We are especially interested in a social history approach of the concession in order to identify historical actors and their relationships.
  • The consequences of concessions on the environment, whether it is liberalisation against limits of other forms of exploitation, or new investments that changes the scale of exploitation. Overexploitation, sustainability, environmental change, pollution, etc., are all themes to be explored. How have concessions changed the relationship of societies to space and their environment?

The languages of the conference will be French and English. Proposals from young researchers are welcome. Mission expenses will be adjusted according to the budget. The papers may be included in a planned edited volume.

Submission guidelines

Proposals for papers (title, 300-word summary, 2-page CV) should be sent

before 15 November 2019

to Raphaël Morera morera.raphael@gmail.comand Thomas Le Roux, oekoomeo@gmail.com.  Decisions will be made by 15 January 2020.  

Le RUCHE- Réseau Universitaire de Chercheurs en Histoire Environnementale https://leruche.hypotheses.org

Organisers

Thomas Le Roux, Raphaël Morera

Scientific Committee 

  • Gabrielle Bouleau (IRSTEA)
  • Corinne Beck (Université de Valenciennes)
  • Philippe Billet (Université Lyon 3)
  • Anne Conchon (Université Paris 1)
  • Jawad Daheur (CNRS, CERCEC)
  • Stéphane Frioux (Université Lyon 2)
  • Frédéric Graber (CNRS, CRH)
  • Liliane Hilaire-Perez (Université Paris 7 – EHESS)
  • Alice Ingold (EHESS)
  • François Jarrige (Université de Bourgogne)
  • Thomas Le Roux(CNRS, CRH)
  • Raphaël Morera(CNRS, CRH)
  • Giacomo Parrinello(Sciences Po Paris)
  • Antonin Pottier (EHESS)
  • Judith Rainhorn(Université Paris 1)
  • Magali Reghezza (ENS Ulm)
  • Tim Soens (Université d’Anvers)
  • Catherine Verna (Université Paris 8)

Places

  • Paris, France (75)

Date(s)

  • Friday, November 15, 2019

Keywords

  • environnement, ressource, concession

Contact(s)

  • Thomas Le Roux
    courriel : oekoomeo [at] wanadoo [dot] fr
  • Raphaël Morera
    courriel : raphael [dot] morera [at] ehess [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Raphaël Morera
    courriel : raphael [dot] morera [at] ehess [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Nature under contract. Concessions, history and the environment », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, June 17, 2019, https://calenda.org/631383

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