Nature-Society and Development: Social, Cultural and Ecological Change in Nepal
Nightingale, Andrea J
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This paper presents a theoretical framework for analyzing human-environment issues that examines shifting, dialectical relationships between social and power relations, cultural beliefs and practices, and ecological processes to allow an interdisciplinary, complex assessment of social and environmental change in Nepal. The purpose of this analysis is to capture the complexity and non-static nature of environmental and social change in the context of uneven development. Drawing from political ecology and feminist geography, this framework brings together scholarship on aspects of human-environment issues that are often pursued in isolation, yet all three processes, social-political relations, cultural practices and ecological conditions, have been acknowledged as important in shaping the trajectory of social and ecological change. I argue that a consideration of the articulations between them is necessary to understand first, how specific land management regimes arise and are dominant over time in specific places. And second, I examine the extent to which these regimes distribute resources equitably within communities, promote economic development and sustain ecological resilience. In this analysis, ecological processes are conceptualised as co-productive of social and cultural processes to explore their role in land management regimes without resorting to environmental determinist or similarly reductive paradigms. I present this framework through the example of natural resource management, specifically community forestry in Nepal, as it offers a rich case study of the relationships between the political economy of land use and the ecological effects of natural resource extraction.