Locating the subject of REDD+: between “improving” and safeguarding forest inhabitants’ conduct

Mattias Hjort*

*Corresponding author for this work

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REDD+ is a forest conservation and carbon trading scheme seeking to incentivise a reduction in emissions through payments. This article draws on Foucault’s governmentality concept and Dean’s analytics of government framework to analyse the REDD+ negotiations under the UNFCCC. It argues that negotiators perceived forest inhabitants as malleable subjects whose conduct can and should be “improved” through disciplinary techniques instantiated in forest monitoring practices. Forest inhabitants are not powerless or passive recipients of discipline, but these techniques foster a conduct that only values carbon at the expense of other ecological and cultural values and, further, encourage conservation purely based on cost-benefit reasoning. The article also interrogates the negotiations of safeguards meant to ensure that REDD+ does no social or ecological harm. It argues that the safeguards appear to allow forest inhabitants to decide on REDD+ implementation and governance, and protect their existing forest governance practices should they elect to do so. However, the safeguards are formulated in a voluntary manner, casting doubts on their ability to offer suitable protection. The article concludes by reflecting on the current demand for carbon credits from REDD+ projects and the implications this has for the disciplinary techniques and the conduct they foster.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-77
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2021


  • REDD+
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • governmentality
  • analytics of government


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