University of Hong Kong
Effects of Indigenous Land Rights on Land Use Decisions
Project summary: Responding to calls within Indigenous communities to more closely examine land claims processes, this project aims to understand whether land tenure in Indigenous communities leads to attitudes and policies favoring development or conservation. I will employ a mixed-methods approach combining globally-scaled satellite night-light imagery and fieldwork in two sites: Alaska, USA, which has a strong Indigenous land tenure regime, and Sarawak, Malaysia, which has a comparably weak one. While a significant amount of research has examined the processes driving land claims, it is not well understood how development proceeds once land claims are won. Furthermore, research regarding Indigenous peoples is often highly localized rather than comparative. Instead, through global analysis and comparison of case studies in North America and Asia, this research will broaden understandings of the relationship between land tenure, development, and conservation at a range of scales. Although Indigenous peoples are often imagined as stewards of the environment, this research asks whether the securing of Indigenous land tenure may actually lead to greater support for industrial development. As Indigenous peoples are gaining greater land rights worldwide, it is critical to understand the possible consequences of this shift in tenure for local livelihoods, the environment, and industry.