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Branding Wakatobi: marine development and legitimation by science

Chui-Ling Tam, University of Calgary


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Marine protected areas (MPAs) serve as a potential defense against marine degradation, meeting the conflicting priorities and needs of multiple actors. Biodiversity, conservation, and ecotourism constitute a triad of sustainability tropes in tropical MPAs that intersect with and reinterpret local histories of marine interaction, subsistence, and commercial extraction. Science is implicated in this production of resource space, with the state and other actors conscripting science to legitimate particular visions of sustainability. A content and discourse analysis of science-based communication instruments about Wakatobi National Park in Indonesia reveals a process of place branding an MPA as unique biological-economic resource space. Legitimation of science privileges scientific knowledge to promote neoliberal development as economic sustainability. Legitimation by science produces an MPA identity of a paradise of marine biodiversity worthy of conservation as ecological sustainability. And, the construction and absence of local human subjects affects their role as constrained agents in resource space. The result is weak social sustainability.

Key words

legitimation; marine protected areas; place identity; science communication; sustainable development

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087