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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Power, science and nature in the Great Bear Rainforest : an actor-network analysis of an integrated natural resource management project Page, Justin Lawrence Roy


This dissertation explores the potential contribution of actor-network theory to the investigation of power and hierarchy, science and politics, and the relationship between nature and society in integrated natural resource management (INRM) projects. INRM consists of natural resource management approaches that seek to devolve power and authority from governments and experts to stakeholders, take account of people as part of ecosystems, and directly link conservation and development. While INRM projects represent an important evolution in resource management, they come with particular sets of problems. Specifically, (1) the devolution of decision-making authority to communities provokes issues of power and hierarchy as groups vie to ensure that their interests are adequately taken into account, (2) critiques of expert-led processes shift responsibility for knowledge production to stakeholder groups, thus raising questions about the relationship between science and politics, and (3) attempts to link ecology and economy require a difficult re-conceptualization of the link between nature and society. Actor-network theory (ANT) avoids presuppositions about power, science, nature, and society in order to study how they are produced as effects of networks, thus offering unique conceptual tools to study INRM as a complex, contingent, and innovative network-building process. A qualitative case study of the “Great Bear Rainforest” agreement on British Columbia’s west coast is undertaken to explore these issues in INRM. Analysis of interviews with 34 individuals from environmental organizations, forestry companies, First Nations, consultancies and local and provincial governments, as well as analysis of textual material, reveals how environmentalists (1) generated power by building a network of activists, bears, forest products customers and forestry companies, (2) simultaneously deployed science and politics in their network-building activities and (3) moved away from attempts to purify networks into “nature” and “society,” working instead to directly link ecosystem integrity and human well-being in a new, common “collective” of humans and nonhumans. The research provides significant detail and analysis of a particular case of INRM that will be of use to INRM practitioners, advocates and activists. Additionally, the research demonstrates the applicability of ANT to the investigation of power, science, and nature in INRM projects.

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