Accepted paper:

Working with coastal naturecultures in Aotearoa/New Zealand


Friederike Gesing (University of Bremen)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyses emerging coastal protection approaches that “work with nature – and not against it", drawing on ethnographic material from Aotearoa/New Zealand and natureculture theory

Paper long abstract:

Coastal environments are primary locations where human-nature relationships are played out. Past and present human interventions attempt to fix the often very dynamic boundary between land and sea. The line between wet and dry, marine and terrestrial has symbolic and material qualities, which are translated into legislative and often also property boundaries. Where no room is left for coastlines to alter over time, coastal erosion turns into an economic, social and often also cultural problem, often addressed with coastal protection measures. The paper focuses on so-called "soft" protection measures, expressing a globally emerging trend to "work with nature" (and not against it). However, this "sociotechnical imaginary" (Jasanoff and Kim 2013) makes reference to nature in an abstract, universalized sense of "Capital-N" Nature (Castree 2005; Hinchliffe 2007). The paper uses ethnographic material from Aotearoa/New Zealand to analyse how this imaginary in the making provides a shared understanding of human-nature relationships for a growing community of practice. But as ensuing conflicts about hard and soft protection show, this emerging globalized imaginary only takes hold when it successfully links up with local naturecultures. A widespread do-it-yourself ethics and a specific New Zealand approach to nature restoration framed around the reintroduction of indigenous biodiversity are vital points of connection. "Restoring native nature" and "working with natural coastal processes" entangle to form a New Zealand-specific assemble of emerging coastal protection approaches that work with nature - and not against it.

panel P034
Rethinking research topics in the Anthropocene: anthropological collaborations in global environmental change