Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: Frontiers: Histories of Civil Society and Nature

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: Frontiers: Histories of Civil Society and Nature

Article excerpt

Michael R. Redclift. Frontiers: Histories of Civil Society and Nature. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006. 237 pp. ISBN: 0-262-68160-9 (paper). $US23.00

In Frontiers: Histories of Civil Society and Nature, Michael R. Redclift, a Professor of International Environmental Policy and Head of the Environment, Society, Politics Research Group in the Department of Geography at King's College, London, seeks to set the discourse about nature and society on a different course. Redclift addresses three problems: "discussion of the links between the environment and society; the problem in establishing how physical space is culturally assimilated; and the need to question the one-sided discussion of the environment as a socially constructed object" (p. vii).

To do so, the book examines five frontier case studies: common-pool resource management in the Spanish Pyrenees Mountains, European settlement on the forest frontier in nineteenth-century Canada, conflicts over land and water resources in coastal Ecuador, Mayan civil unrest in the Yucatan peninsula, and the encroachment of tourism on the Mexican Caribbean coast. Redclift develops a broad definition of the frontier: "Frontiers are not simply existing physical and social boundaries; they are increasingly located at the outer reaches of modernity, in cyberspace as well as real space, in new genetic materials as well as in the embodied cultural forms. Frontiers are also the products of peoples' imagination, of geography, culture, and space" (p.208).

Much of Redclift's work focuses on the fieldwork he conducted in Spanish speaking countries, but he also draws upon a rich body of historical, theoretical, and philosophical work on the subject. Here one will find stories of the conflicts between indigenous peoples and the encroachment of western society. Global forces find marketable resources in the natural environment which change the areas that gave meaning to native peoples. At stake is cultural survival as well as the preservation of the natural environment.

The narratives covered invoke dualisms in the conceptualization of civil society and nature such as frontier/civilization, community/markets, commodity/conservation and conservation/tourism. The objective was "to examine not only the history through which the frontier has been colonized and settled, but also the way in which this history has been imagined, committed to memory, or written about" (p. …

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