Corridor Talk: Conservation Humanities and the Future of Europe’s National Parks


£284,558 (€317,300)

Partners and collaborators

University of Leeds and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU Munich.


Many of Europe’s national parks pose a unique challenge to conservation work, as they are not just historically wild and contested places, but are also sites of more recent geopolitical disputes. Understanding the role these parks play in local perceptions of place, identity, species movements, and human rights of access involves conservation as refracted through multiple languages and cultures: it requires, in short, a humanities-based as well as a scientific-managerial approach.

Co-funded by the AHRC and the DFG and featuring a team of six researchers, three based at the University of Leeds and three at Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) Munich, this project applies interdisciplinary perspectives derived from a new field partly pioneered at Leeds, conservation humanities, which examines the humanistic aspects of biodiversity loss. These perspectives are used to consider the past, present, and future of four of Europe’s most iconic national parks: Wadden Sea National Park, Pyrenees National Park, and Bavarian Forest and Šumava National Parks.

The two key concepts are mobility and boundaries. All four parks either abut or traverse national borders; they thus depend upon negotiated forms of transboundary cooperation that indicate the transnational parameters of conservation itself. All four parks also raise issues of mobility that have political and philosophical underpinnings.

Whose freedom is it that is protected in national parks: that of the people who live within their boundaries, or that of their resident wildlife? What happens when these ideas of freedom come into conflict?

Who or what moves in, across, and beyond national parks, and according to which sets of conservation principles are these intersecting movements – of humans, animals, landscapes, knowledge – to be both practically managed and theoretically understood?

Do different designated boundaries – geographical and political, but also notional, as in the species boundary – facilitate or impede these movements, and what happens when such boundaries are transgressed?

Imaginatively combining methods drawn from ecocriticism, animal studies, environmental history, and conservation social science, the project addresses these questions in three interrelated work packages. Each focuses on a single species or family (the sandpiper, the brown bear, and the bark beetle), but also adopts a ‘multispecies’ approach involving multiple human-animal entanglements and explores some of the issues (species decline, habitat loss, disease, predation) that these entanglements raise.

A fourth work package brings these findings together and assesses their relevance to current and future conservation policy in European national parks.

The project’s main outputs will be a book, a film, seven co-written articles, and four policy briefs that set out recommendations for future conservation policy with respect to European national parks, both as national institutions and transnational spaces within the overarching context of an ecologically threatened world.

Project website