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Convivial Constitutionality: Human-Predator Interrelations in Complex Social-Ecological Systems

Author Samuel WEISSMAN
Director of thesis Prof. Dr. Tobias Haller
Co-director of thesis Prof. Dr. Dan Brockington
Summary of thesis

This research project aims to not only fill an important gap in understanding environmental conservation from a social science perspective but also contribute to the wider understanding relevant across various disciplines on the role interaction between humans and non-humans plays in conservation. The proposal is related - and a response - to a research project funded by the Belmont Forum and NORFACE called Towards Convivial Conservation: Governing Human-Wildlife Relations in the Anthropocene (CON-VIVA) currently underway to answer critical questions around the most pressing issues facing conservation. CON-VIVA addresses the need ‘to move beyond currently dominant paradigms that promote nature-culture dualisms and market-based funding mechanisms’. Intervening within the current debate concerning alternatives to conventional economic development strategies in conservation, the concept put forth by the convivial conservation project aims at reconciling the latest state-of-the-art conservation approaches with new ecological research findings that work towards integrating apex predators in diverse contexts, as these play a crucial role in maintaining healthy ecosystems (for further reading see also Büscher and Fletcher 2019, 2020). Since the presence of such (often large) carnivores poses a myriad of challenges, especially in terms of conflicts that arise with people, the project gathers data and looks for ways to successfully overcome human-nature divides. The SNSF proposal ‘Towards Convivial Constitutionality’ aims to address an important gap in the CON-VIVA project by exploring an issue it does not directly consider: how local groups perceive conviviality and how they would craft new institutions to make conviviality possible, based on the constitutionality approach that looks at elements for successful bottom-up institution building (Haller et al. 2016). This will be done by comparative social anthropological research focusing on three agro-pastoralist contexts in three different countries, each with one case-study of a famous predator and its interactions with the local communities studied by three PhD students using an actor-oriented and bottom-up perspective. These case-studies include the following countries and animals: Colombia (Jaguar, South America), Romania (Wolf, Europe) and Kenya (Lion, Africa). Each of the three PhDs will cover one area of study in order to compare similarities and differences regarding institutional arrangements in specific conservation cases and relate the specific circumstances regarding convivial concepts between humans and predators to each other. The project can profit from already existing work in these areas but provides an important opportunity to contribute original research on the local heterogeneous perspective and ecological knowledge as well as innovative ideas concerning how to cope with challenges of conservation related to these often-dangerous animals. The project then addresses the important research questions of local perspectives regarding this mode of conservation, on power specific issues in the external crafting of conservation rules and options of bottom-up institution building (constitutionality), which will contribute to sustainable convivial solutions.

Status beginning
Administrative delay for the defence 2024