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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 : 2022  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 167-178

Human-Wildlife Coexistence: Business as Usual Conservation or an Opportunity for Transformative Change?

Sociology of Development and Change Group, Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands

Correspondence Address:
Kate Massarella
Sociology of Development and Change Group, Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen
The Netherlands
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_26_21

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The term 'coexistence' is increasingly being used by academics and practitioners to reflect a re-conceptualisation of human-wildlife interactions (HWI). Coexistence has become a popular buzzword and is central to several proposals for transformative change in biodiversity conservation, including convivial conservation. Although ideas about how to achieve coexistence proliferate, critical exploration of the framing and use of the term is lacking. Through analysis of semi-structured interviews, webinars and online and offline documents, this paper critically interrogates how 'coexistence' is being conceptualised and translated into practice. We characterise coexistence as a boundary object that reflects a broadly agreed on 'hopeful mission', while being flexible enough to be meaningful for a wide range of actors. We identify three main framings of coexistence, which reflect the ways of knowing, values and approaches of different epistemic communities. We find that although the idea of coexistence has the potential to help facilitate transformative change in wildlife management, so far it largely manifests in practice as a positive-sounding label for standardised packages of tools and incentives. We argue that as the meaning of coexistence continues to be contested, there is an opportunity for activists, academics, and practitioners to reclaim its transformative roots. We identify a role for convivial conservation within this agenda: to re-politicise coexistence through the concept of 'meaningful coexistence'.

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