2016 journal article

The Middle-Class Conservationist: Social Dramas, and Blurred Identity Boundaries and Their Environmental Consequences in Mexican Conservation

Current Anthropology, 57(2), 197–218.

By: N. Haenn*

UN Sustainable Development Goal Categories
1. No Poverty (Web of Science)
15. Life on Land (Web of Science; OpenAlex)
Source: Web Of Science
Added: November 19, 2018

This paper argues that conservation and society research employs a social drama framework that presumes, rather than questions, identity boundaries between conservation actors. This framework describes three competing groups: local residents, government elites, and international actors. The paper counters this narrative by relating the history of conservationists’ careers in southern Mexico, where the boundaries between middle-class conservationists and noncapitalist peasants are quite porous. Drawing on theories of identity formation and self-presentation, the paper indicates how conservation structures insist on the repudiation of similarities between conservation employees and subject populations. Cultural sharing between conservationists and peasants takes place over time at offstage and backstage sites. As such, these processes are less visible in social drama narratives focused, synchronically, on disputes. The paper uses these findings to reconsider two central claims in conservation and society research, that is, conservation as an imposition of elite prerogatives and conservation’s support for capitalist exploitation of natural resources.