, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 67-81
Date: 28 May 2008

Stories and Maps, Images and Archives: Multimethod Approach to the Political Ecology of Native Property Rights and Natural Resource Management in Sabah, Malaysia

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Abstract

The study of human-environmental relations is complex and by nature draws on theories and practices from multiple disciplines. There is no single research strategy or universal set of methods to which researchers must adhere. Particularly for scholars interested in a political ecology approach to understanding human-environmental relationships, very little has been written examining the details of “how to” design a project, develop appropriate methods, produce data, and, finally, integrate multiple forms of data into an analysis. A great deal of attention has been paid, appropriately, to the theoretical foundations of political ecology, and numerous scholarly articles and books have been published recently. But beyond Andrew Vayda’s “progressive contextualization” and Piers Blaikie and Harold Brookfield’s “chains of explanation,” remarkably little is written that provides a research model to follow, modify, and expand. Perhaps one of the reasons for this gap in scholarship is that, as expected in interdisciplinary research, researchers use a variety of methods that are suitable (and perhaps unique) to the questions they are asking. To start a conversation on the methods available for researchers interested in adopting a political ecology perspective to human-environmental interactions, I use my own research project as a case study. This research is by no means flawless or inclusive of all possible methods, but by using the details of this particular research process as a case study I hope to provide insights into field research that will be valuable for future scholarship.