Daniel Read, Ramesh G. Mawaskar, & Bilal Habib (2019, May). Translating legitimacy: Perspectives on institutions for human-wildlife coexistence in Central India. Geoforum, 101, 38-48. (doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.02.027) (Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.02.027)

Abstract: Achieving human-wildlife coexistence relies on legitimizing conservation institutions for diverse groups of stakeholders. Accordingly, wildlife conservationists have developed a range of tools to enhance the legitimacy of conservation institutions. But these tools often reflect the normative ideas of ‘intermediaries’ found in academic and grey literature about how and why people grant legitimacy to certain institutions. In the buffer zone of Melghat Tiger Reserve in central India, an area managed for human-wildlife coexistence, we used Q methodology to understand how people who regularly encounter wildlife assess some of the ideas currently circulating in wildlife conservation discourses about enhancing the legitimacy of coexistence institutions. There was consensus that some of the ideas would help to legitimize conservation, and there were three main ways in which people interpreted these ideas, reflecting different perspectives on how people grant legitimacy. These perspectives were based on (1) the practical outcomes of conservation institutions, (2) the relationships between conservationists and local people, and (3) people’s knowledge of conservation institutions. These perspectives add empirical depth to largely theoretical discussions of legitimacy in conservation, while also showing how people translate the same ideas differently. These different translations suggest that practitioners and policy-makers should attend to the trade-offs involved in framing and implementing programs for human-wildlife coexistence, as the same ideas will be understood differently by people who regularly encounter wildlife depending on their different perspectives on legitimacy.

Daniel Read <dread> is in the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Center for Environmental Science, University of Maryland, Solomons, MD (USA).