Introduction: The politics of engagement between biodiversity conservation and the social sciences

Bram Büscher*, William Wolmer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


In scientific endeavour related to biodiversity conservation, the perspectives of the natural sciences have long been dominant. During the last several decades, however, social science research has steadily gained momentum. The major achievement of the social sciences has been to investigate and emphasise the 'human side' of biodiversity conservation, ranging from local issues around social exclusion from protected areas and dependency of 'local people' on natural resources to more abstract issues of environmental governance and political ecology. But social science research is itself also a social process and its practices, assumptions and outcomes therefore deserve continuous critical reflection. The paper contends that when it comes to the engagement of the social sciences and biodiversity conservation the concept of 'politics' has tended to have negative connotations. However, we argue, like anything social, politics should not automatically be seen as negative. This acceptance could considerably improve relations between different actors and we therefore urge all those involved in the debate, especially social scientists, to take two crucial steps: first, the creation and acceptance of practical spaces for critical political engagement and second, the concomitant need for actors to scrutinise and reflect more consciously on their politics of engagement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalConservation and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Engagement
  • Politics
  • Social science
  • Southern Africa

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