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The Power of Narrative in Environmental Networks

The Power of Narrative in Environmental Networks

Raul Lejano
Mrill Ingram
Helen Ingram
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Power of Narrative in Environmental Networks
    Book Description:

    For as long has humans have lived in communities, storytelling has bound people to each other and to their environments. In recent times, scholars have noted how social networks arise around issues of resource and ecological management. In this book, Raul Lejano, Mrill Ingram, and Helen Ingram argue that stories, or narratives, play a key role in these networks -- that environmental communities "narrate themselves into existence." The authors propose the notion of the narrative-network, and introduce innovative tools to analyze the plots, characters, and events that inform environmental action. Their analysis sheds light on how environmental networks can emerge in unlikely contexts and sustain themselves against great odds. The authors present three case studies that demonstrate the power of narrative and narratology in the analysis of environmental networks: a conservation network in the Sonoran Desert, which achieved some success despite U.S.-Mexico border issues; a narrative that bridged differences between community and scientists in the Turtle Islands; and networks of researchers and farmers who collaborated to develop and sustain alternative agriculture practice in the face of government inaction. These cases demonstrate that by paying attention to language and storytelling, we can improve our understanding of environmental behavior and even change it in positive ways.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31534-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Sheldon Kamieniecki and Michael Kraft

    Much of contemporary scholarship on environmental policy and politics centers on empirical analysis of policymaking processes, often rooted in well-developed theories of public policy, such as the factors shaping issue framing and agenda setting or the influence of organized groups on policy decisions. As an offshoot of research on agenda setting and the interaction of citizens and groups in the policy process, political scientists and other social scientists increasingly have turned to analysis of networks. In some ways, this approach dates back to the idea of issue networks that Hugh Heclo developed in the late 1970s to capture the often...

  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Introduction: The Stories Environmental Networks Tell Us
    (pp. 1-26)

    The story that most of us typically read, hear, and tell about the environment is a familiar one: across a vast range of ecological settings, we find a diversity of earth’s living organisms uniquely adapted to thrive on the local resources, and creating an intricate, multifarious web of relationships with other living things, shaping and shaped by soil, wind, and other elements. Picture humans in this scene, however, and we enter like a giant predatory insect driven by necessity, greed, ignorance, or even good intentions (depending on the twist favored by the storyteller). Humans blunder into the web, rending strands...

  6. 2 A Theory of “More than Social” Networks
    (pp. 27-48)

    The juxtaposition of a review of social networks followed by a discussion of narrative analysis is uncommon. The two concepts have very different research traditions. As Sheldon Kamieniecki and Michael Kraft observe in the foreword, scholarship on networks is firmly rooted in empirical and quantitative analyses, employing approaches and insights from the natural and social sciences, while narrative study can be traced to interpretive policy analysis, political philosophy, and infusions from the humanities. Although some narrative analysts have employed network analysis to gain new insights into how stories are structured, few network scholars reciprocate by considering what stories tell us...

  7. 3 The Turn to Narrative Analysis
    (pp. 49-78)

    It is a truism that, to sell something to someone, you have to tell a good story and tell it well. But, in this book, we are not concerned with narrative as a vehicle for “spin-doctoring” (though that is a part of the modern realpolitik). Narratives are much more important than that, especially with regard to the roles they play in networks.

    In chapter 2, we ended with the proposition that the network can be understood as an emplotment of diverse characters, objects, and events. In this chapter, we work out how this is so and explain how methods used...

  8. 4 Narrative, Network, and Conservation on the Arizona-Sonora Border
    (pp. 79-118)

    Nearly a hundred, primarily young researchers gathered in April 2012 at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, set in a saguaro forest among volcanic peaks west of Tucson. Their interests were varied, including everything from the middens of pack rats to the language of the Seri Indians. They called themselves The Next Generation Sonoran Desert Researchers (, and the purpose of their three-day meeting conducted in Spanish and English (with about equal representation of native speakers of each) was to renew face-to-face transborder contacts that existed so strongly thirty years ago and are today being threatened by security barriers and narcotics trafficking...

  9. 5 Narrating the Ethical Landscape of the Turtle Islands
    (pp. 119-144)

    Turtles fascinate us. Why that is, we don’t exactly know. They do hardly anything in real time, content to sit there like still lifes in the sand. And yet they draw us to them—how many pictures have we seen of crowds gathering around a giant turtle, probably older than most of the people there, talking and clapping at the sight. We seem drawn by some inner impulse to reach out to this being, notwithstanding its seeming oblivion to our presence, to make a connection and maybe even care for them. In a word, it draws us to relationship.


  10. 6 Narratives of Nature and Science in Alternative Farming Networks
    (pp. 145-172)

    In light of the widespread presence of organic agricultural products and the expansion of organic acreage over the last three decades¹ it is perhaps easy to overlook the extent to which, until fairly recently, organic and other forms of alternative agriculture were marginalized and actively denigrated by mainstream practice. Proponents of organic farming began to broadcast their ideas in the United States, Great Britain, and other countries over seventy years ago, but gained hard won territory in terms of market share and political representation only within the last three decades. In the United States, “mainstreaming” of organic agriculture has included...

  11. 7 Expanding the Ecological Imagination
    (pp. 173-194)

    What our environment might become, given where we are now, is a question clouded by narratives that cannot now exist and perhaps never did. TheParadise Lostnarrative, for example, tends to falsely separate humans and nature and to characterize human impacts as largely destructive. Our aim in this book has been to explore a range of alternative environmental narratives and to offer a method for understanding the role of narratives in informing and guiding environmental action.

    In our work, we find a powerful argument for the systematic use of narratives, as told by both putative managers and other community...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 195-196)
  13. References
    (pp. 197-216)
  14. Index
    (pp. 217-226)
  15. Series List
    (pp. 227-228)