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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2005  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 461-478

Nature Makes them Lazy: Contested Perceptions of Place and Knowledge in the Lower Amazon Floodplain of Brazil

Department of Social Anthropology, University of St. Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9AL, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
Mark Harris
Department of Social Anthropology, University of St. Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9AL
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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This article considers how fisherpeople, who live on the Lower Amazonian floodplain, perceive their environment. It contrasts their views with those of elite townspeople and attempts to put these differences in a brief historical context. If these perceptions are historical and part of an estab­lished tradition of local knowledge, what role should they play in the conser­vation of the floodplain? My aim in this article is to show how the floodplain is a multilayered place requiring skilled knowledge to survive. It is made by human labour, as well as the river and its movements. This kind of knowledge is a key resource for environmental management. By focusing on 'local knowledge' I am trying to complement the work of NGOs who are dedicated to community forms of management. My intention is to show the horizons that conservationists should be aware of if recent anthropological understandings of human-environmental relatedness are to be taken seriously. For all the la­bels and models used to describe floodplain residents and their work we can­not really know them until we know what they know and how they come to know. This perspective complements the expert and specialised knowledge of outsiders.

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