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Learning Conceptual Diversity through Caribou Co-management

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Kendrick, Anne
Conference: Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bloomington, IN
Conf. Date: May 31-June 4
Date: 2000
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1424
Sector: Wildlife
Social Organization
Region: North America
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
local knowledge
indigenous knowledge
Abstract: "The recognition of a diversity of conceptual systems is essential to any exploration of the links between social and ecological systems. This paper focuses on caribou co-management as a possible case study of the evolution of conceptual pluralism in practice. While acknowledging the significance of the political power dynamics between state and community, this discussion examines co-management from a different angle, that of learning and the accommodation of varied ways of knowing. "The question of how humans learn to learn and specifically how we learn to respect (not necessarily apprehend) other ways of knowing is represented here as an examination of humility - a respect for diverse realities. Humility is central to a needed dialectic or "new mode of conversation" (Bateson 1991:306), a veritable "economics of flexibility" of human thought (Bateson 1991:158). "Co-management literature describes co-management 'inefficiencies' as the continued divergence in the attitudes and beliefs of state managers and community resource users (Kruse et al. 1998). Alternatively, co-management "failures" may signify the continued potential for the 'successful' respect of conceptual pluralism. The lasting differences between the beliefs and attitudes of local resource users and state managers, may reveal much about the evolution of humility. For instance, continued differences between caribou users and government managers perceptions of caribou population dynamics (see Kruse et al. 1998) represents a significant epistemological problem - the reconciliation of different ways of thinking. Epistemologically-speaking, co-management may contain clues about how to overcome human beings deficit of what we are able to know and think (Bateson 1991:x) and in this century an increasing tendency to homogenize how we are able to know and think. "Currently, dominant global ideologies emphasize the "one-sided divorce, not only from nature but also from our own biology, and thus of course from our very selves" (Livingston 1981:82) leading to a mismatch between human behaviour and natural processes. This mismatch has strong implications for the human capacity to think about living processes and to act on this knowledge. In other words, how we learn about social-ecological linkages is as important as what we learn about these links. Caribou co-management systems are examples of the negotiation of the mismatch between human behaviour and ecological processes. The discrepancy between the thought and belief systems of traditional caribou users and government caribou managers may lead to significant integrative and complex learning about human-environment relations rather than dominant ways of thinking marginalizing alternative thought. "First, this paper explores the limitations of all conceptual realities due to the nature of language and human thought patterns. The presuppositions of the most prevalent conceptual reality in the world today, western science, is also explored in relation to the nature of human language. Second, the paper examines co-management, specifically caribou co-management in arctic and subarctic North America, for evidence of the evolution of the trust and the humility necessary for the maintenance of diverse conceptual constructs. Third, the integrative nature of metaphor and belief systems and the relationship between resource management effectiveness and human purpose is outlined. Finally, it is suggested that the learning occurring in cross-cultural and mainly informal co-management settings may lead to the metaphors, in essence, conceptual diversity."

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