Drawing on 3 ½ months of fieldwork in a trans-Himalayan rural community located within Shey Phoksumdo National Park in northwest Nepal, this thesis explores transformations of social practices and its relationship to nature. This relation is highly influenced by what by several academics is known as conservation-as-development; one of the most dominant global environmental discourses at present. In 1987, the Brundtland Report. Our Common Future was published and they promoted a new global discourse based on sustainable development. Here, the promotion of a global discourse, namely sustainable development gave basis for a new development trend by means of its strong argumentation for the creation of an economic system in which the two previously oppositional goals, economic development and conservation of biodiversity, would come together as one. To achieve this ambitious goal, the report emphasised the importance to of the inclusion of local communities followed by a consequent stronger (empowered) position to influence policy-making. The result has been a widespread use of various forms of specifically state designed co-management concepts, implemented in national parks. Co-management is a model built for the sharing of responsibilities between governmental institutions and other groups of resource users.
This study trace to what extent structural natural co-management has functioned since 1998 in the Phoksumdo community. The results are ambiguous, but one phenomenon seems to stand in great contradiction with the stakeholders ambition to conserve the areas biodiversity: That is the threat of over-exploitation of natural resources. Most economists would agree that over-exploitation of natural resources is a sign of market failure, which in some way must be regulated in order to be avoided. This flaw is most commonly assumed in classical economic models to derive from a natural treat inherent in the human species that drives actors to maximise their outcomes which are motivated by mere greed and a lack of morality. Such narratives are strongly related to neo-liberalistic ideologies. What characterizes neo-liberal economic models is its tendency towards methodological individualism. I argue that these models, which disregard specific market structures created by the state, force local residents to deal within the existing economic circumstances, and are therefore ahistorical. The market circumstances, in discussion, have been transformed from being based on barter economy only a few decades ago, to becoming more dependent on a money economy. The market circumstances in this context have been transformed from being based on barter economy only a few decades ago to become more depending on money economy. The states role has been to actively introduce new institutions that have created the economic circumstances observable in the park today. This thesis argues against such individualistic assumptions, and the study is instead grounded in practice oriented approach that focuses on the various ways in which power mediate human-environment relations.