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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2005  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 354-370

Of Otters and Humans: An Approach to the Politics of Nature in Terms of Rhetoric

Department of Germanic Studies, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station C 3300, Austin, TX 78712-0304, USA

Correspondence Address:
Werner Krauss
Department of Germanic Studies, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station C 3300, Austin, TX 78712-0304
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Local protest against the establishment of conservation zones is a worldwide phenomenon. Environmental protests focus not only on pollution and protection, but tend with almost magnetic force to centre around more abstract concepts such as identity, power, and development issues. Using as a case study a nature park in the South of Portugal, I trace the complex process of nature conservation as a rhetorical construction, as I focus on the relation between people and animals. This nature park was legitimised not at least by reference to an endangered species of otters, which also play an important role in the ongoing controversial debate about tourism, construction and in­dustrialised international agriculture. The article highlights encounters be­tween people and these otters from different perspectives: their representation in the media, in nature conservation discourse, and in local discourse and practises. Significantly, the otter becomes a powerful metaphor in both con­servationist and (opposing) local discourses. The discussion suggests that, given the complexity and multitude of issues involved in such cases, the im­plementation of nature conservation strategies is changing the relation not only between man and nature, but between people themselves. While the con­troversy surrounding this particular nature park found a resolution (at least a temporary one), surrounding issues of development, identity and power rela­tions remain unresolved.

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