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Global Studies


Between 2014 and 2016 Ukraine’s Danube Biosphere Reserve (DBR) administrators devoted extensive time to lawsuits in which they defended the legality of commercial fisheries in reserve territory. Two cases are discussed in order to examine what impact litigation had and why administrators pursued litigation when dominant accounts of law in Ukraine suggest that avoiding the courts might be a more likely response. It analyzes court documents and interviews gathered during anthropological research about nature conservation in the Danube Delta by combining insights from political ecology, agrarian studies, and socio-legal scholarship on Ukraine. Even though administrators lost their cases and had to rezone the reserve, engaging in litigation helped them defend fishing commons against further enclosure by environmentalists, state officials, and business people, and to minimize predatory behavior that could exclude delta residents. This demonstrates litigation’s important but often overlooked role in challenging the outcomes of natural resource-related internal state territorialization.

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