Past decades have been marked with grassroots struggles around the use and access to natural resources such as forests, both in the global South and in the global North. On the one hand, we have politicians, bureaucrats and others needing to deal with these issues at the national and global level. On the other, we have the material practices and struggles at the local level as well as a parallel discourse on decentralization to local areas from the past few decades. By tracing the historical changes in policies that touch on forests-peoples relationships in India and Sweden, I contextualize these trends by placing them in a historical context and examine the questions that are central to a critical examination for environmental governance today. I analyze how environmental policy-making shaped forest politics in the two places and what spaces it provided for environmental democracy—especially in relation to possibilities for people’s participation and for gender equality. I bring attention to the imperative to take account of questions of increasing expert dominance in environmental governance and local struggles, the space for local people’s participation in forest and rural politics, the gendering of these spaces and relationships and how that affects environmental politics.
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