9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN12 Environment and Society

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Nature Protection and Social Perception of Animals Building I, 1E6

Wildlife-Human Conflict in Guinea-Bissau: how social perceptions can be determinant for successful conservation strategies

The main goal of the present paper is to assess the social perceptions of some African ethnic groups (e.g. Nalú, Fulani among others) of nature conservation and biodiversity. The perceptions of other animals and their functions (religious, aesthetic or functional/hunting and feeding value) and the perceptions of different landscapes (sacred-bushes, mangroves, agricultural fields such as "bolanhas"/rice fields and forests) and different ecosystems are considered.
This study was conducted in an isolated rural area (deep in the South of Guinea-Bissau) via questionnaire (n=120) and observation, and was financed by FCT.
While for most sociologists (and other social scientists), animals (and ecosystems) remain the discipline´s ultimate "other", we argue that not only biologists or researchers from the environmental sciences have a key role in the biodiversity conservation but sociologist too.
In order for conservationist strategies to be effective, such strategies must be developed bearing in mind their target-populations and the "sociological framework" of such communities: the social milieu (ethno-sphere) - otherwise they are doomed to failure.
Our data suggests that the social role of other animals (and landscapes and ecosystems) is important for local communities that attributes them a functional and aesthetic value.
We argue that:
i) although historically, Sociology´s relation with "animals" (and nature) has been, at best, poor and undermined by paradoxical tensions, sociologists have a strategic role while environmental and biodiversity conservation strategies are being planned by different actors (e.g. governmental organizations, among other institutions);
ii) in a long term, Sociology (and other social sciences) can contribute to develop effective and reliable nature and biodiversity conservation strategies.
Finally, in this presentation we will address a possible framework for overcoming human-animal and nature dichotomies in Sociology. While other social scientists (e.g. physical anthropologists) have been studying primates and primate behaviour towards a better understanding of commonalities between humans and non-humans, more often than not, sociologists refuse to account for animal sociality, culture, and/or ontological comparability. This is not surprising given that the sociological "exoticization" of non-western cultures (such as the African ones) entailed - amongst many other techniques - the evocation of unclear borders between "the human" and "the animal".