WS16: Making sense of multiple understandings

Publicerad: 8 oktober 2018

Making sense of multiple understandings: Interpretive analysis of environmental politics and natural resource management


Karin Beland Lindahl (Luleå University of Technology)
Elsa Reimerson (Umeå University):

People have different ways of understanding the world, including its environment and natural resources. The meaning that they ascribe to an environment, a place, a resource, or a policy influences their behavior. Consequently, meaning construction shapes the structure and function of institutions, social practices, and public policy. Environmental politics and natural resource management involves a variety of actors with different, and sometimes conflictual, understandings of the environment and its resources. Actors’ perceptions of a landscape, what constitutes a resource, or the qualities and desired management of a landscape or resource often diverge widely, as do actors’ understandings of policy and policy events. Different knowledge systems entail different ways of constructing and communicating meaning, and relationships of power play out in struggles over meaning. Analyzing the meaning-making processes of actors in environmental politics and natural resource management may help us understand why a particular policy fails to bring about its intended effects, how particular social practices are established and enforced, or the performance of an institutional arrangement.

This NESS workshop focuses on how different understandings of the environment and its resources, places, and policies affect policy-making and other social practices. Drawing on interpretive approaches to political analysis, we wish to explore how meaning and meaning-making shape actions, practices, policies and institutions.

Interpretive approaches contain a range of elements: meaning and meaning construction, political actions, institutions, and the reality-shaping power of meaning construction. We invite contributions from all researchers with an interest in exploring the significance of meaning and meaning construction in environmental politics and politics of natural resource management – using approaches including, but not limited to, frame-, discourse-, narrative-, storytelling-, or category analysis. Relevant questions may include how policy problems/solutions are constructed, how actors perceive problems and solutions, how actors or their views are represented, how meaning construction shapes action, or how different actors or their perceptions are reflected in policymaking and policy outcomes.

We look forward to fruitful discussions of papers from a wide spectrum of the social sciences, including perspectives from the local and regional to the national or global. Comparative studies on any of these levels are particularly welcomed.