Institutt for sosialantropologi

Managing nature, people and development: Patronage, Confessionalism and Market-Based Conservation in a Lebanese Protected Area


By Mads Solberg

Supervisor: Associate Professor Ståle Knudsen

This thesis is based on six months of anthropological fieldwork summer and winter 2010 in Lebanon.

The ethnography tells a story about a group of conservationists managing natural resources around a protected area. It also portrays residents from a village adjacent to the reserve to understand institutional dynamics, social change, representations and perceptions of local environment. The park counts remnant relics of Cedrus libani, a tree with an exceptional cultural history, among its main attractions.

On basis of materials presented, my general arguments supports the proposition that protected areas are contingent on social dynamics not principally related to nature conservation and involves continual negotiations among social agents about representations of nature, communities and environmental values. The thesis chronicles protected areas as a Lebanese resource management policy, and argues that patronage’s embeddedness played a crucial role in conservation and raises theoretical question concerning dynamics between conservation, state and civil society. I argue from situational analysis that Lebanon’s confessional-cum-clientelist political structure provided networks which facilitated negotiations over resource management outside state channels, thereby enabling a degree of managerial flexibility. I examine the unifying potentials of conservation in a postwar society through contested representations and commoditization of culture, community, place and the past. Finally I apply theoretical tools on market-liberal propositional schemes for legitimizing conservation practice, and outline a framework for analyzing institutionalized cultural knowledge through cognitive models. I argue appeals to both rationality and affect are mobilized contextually by environmentalists to regulate human-environmental relations.