Beyond environmental frames: The social representation and cultural resonance of nature in conflicts over a Dutch woodland

A.E. Buijs, B.J.M. Arts, B.H.M. Elands, J. Lengkeek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


Frame analysis has been widely employed to understand environmental conflicts. Such studies emphasize the internal dynamics of conflict and focus on how actors discursively struggle with each other in order to gain hegemony over the dominant discourse on the issue. In this paper, we argue that the explanatory power of framing theory could be enhanced by relating issue specific frames to the broader cultural context in which framing efforts are situated. In order to investigate the link between the success of framing strategies and the cultural background of such strategies, we suggest rethinking the concept of cultural resonance. We propose social representations theory as a novel way of understanding this cultural resonance of spatial and environmental frames. Based on a dispute over the management of a national park in the Netherlands, we empirically illustrate how contending stakeholders refer to different social representations of nature in the framing of local conflicts. A local protest group proves to be much more in touch with the views of the local community and is thus more successful in its framing of the dispute than the nature conservation agency involved. While the protest group uses a wide range of locally embedded representations of nature to enhance the currency of its framing efforts, the nature conservation agency responsible for the management of the forest refers to a much more limited range of representations. By making references only to the wilderness representation of nature, the cultural resonance of the agency’s framing efforts remains limited to those residents who adhere to this specific representation of nature. Consequently, this framing is not very successful among groups that adhere to other representations of nature, such as aesthetic or inclusive representations. Our analysis shows that combining framing theory with social representations theory enables one to disentangle the framing of environmental disputes from the more constant cultural values and opinions on which this framing is based
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-341
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • management
  • attitudes
  • policy
  • conservation
  • biodiversity
  • discourse
  • reserve


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