Power in (of) Qualitative Methods: Conservation Research with Human Communities: day1

Conservation research, practice and outcomes critically depend on engaging with human communities, in diverse social and cultural landscapes. Human action in relation to environment is guided by our ability to think, imagine and form meaningful relationships with other humans and the non-human world. At the same time, it is constrained and shaped by social structures and institutions, most notably by relationships of power and inequality in society. Conservation challenges, such as PA management, ecological restoration and human-wildlife conflict, must be understood in this context.

This interactive workshop will introduce participants to qualitative research methods that are valuable in making sense of this inter-related complexity of social worlds and human action. Qualitative research paradigm follows a distinctive approach to the nature of our social reality (ontology) and how we can create valid theoretical knowledge about this reality (epistemology). Qualitative research builds on this approach to understand and explain life-worlds and actions of human beings in different contexts, whether the forest guard in a village, the elderly leader of a pastoral community or the corporate manager who is an amateur birdwatcher and wildlife enthusiast.

This workshop will draw upon research in fields like political ecology and environmental anthropology to demonstrate the value of qualitative methods in conservation research and practice. The advantages and challenges of two key methods and interviews and participant observation will be explored in due course. Using interactive methods and role play, the workshop will discuss the significance of bias, value judgments and the hidden transcripts in research with human subjects.