Misreading the Conservation Landscape
The social sciences are often seen as being in opposition to conservation and the practise of conservationists. Yet, social scientists have made important contributions to conservation and could make even more if they are willing to use perceptive, insightful tools as a means of both improving the practise of conservation and sharpening social science’s critique of conservation ideas and practises. This chapter provides two profiles: (1) the ways in which this author thinks social science work has already improved conservation practise and (2) a set of generalisations made by some social scientists about the practise of conservation that are incorrect or incomplete. I argue that a more careful application of social science tools and approaches could begin an active and informed exploration of the diversity of values, histories, institutions, politics and approaches in conservation. This would facilitate the sharpening of social science’s critique of conservation ideas and practises and, through these, improve the practise of conservation.
I would like to thank my social science friends and colleagues who have taught me so much but are not responsible for what I have learned: Bill Adams, Allyn Stearman, Katrina Brandon, Arun Agrawal, Bill Balee, Peter Brosius, Marcus Colchester, Steve Sanderson, Anna Tsing and Paige West. For perceptive and often critical, but always useful comments, I would like to thank Arun Agrawal, Nigel Dudley, Mike Mascia, Dan Miller, John Robinson, Steve Sanderson and Meredith Welch Devine. I also would like to thank the constructive engagement of three reviewers.
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