Competing Epistemologies

Conservationist Discourses and Guji Oromo’s Sacred Cosmologies


  • Asebe Regassa Debelo Dilla University



Sacred Cosmologies, Environmental Cosmologies, Nature-Culture Relations


Due to the ecological challenges faced by many around the globe, environmental conservation has now become an important priority among politicians, academicians, practitioners, and local communities in different cultural and livelihood contexts. Nevertheless, there is no clear consensus about the place of human beings in the environment and the best approach needed to avert ecological problems that arise from anthropogenic factors. While most mainstream Western notions of environmental conservation emphasize a human–nonhuman dualism, most indigenous cosmologies holistically embrace human, nonhuman, and supernatural beings as integral parts or ‘societies of nature’. Moreover, most conceptualizations of nature among indigenous peoples are deeply rooted in their beliefs, norms, values, and customs, which are performed and enacted in rituals that convey profound interconnectedness between humans and nature. Taking Nech Sar National Park in southern Ethiopia as a case study, this paper examines the conmicts and collaborations of different environmental epistemologies, namely the government’s conservationist discourse and local sacred cosmologies. Based on data from ethnographic research conducted among the Guji Oromo of southern Ethiopia, I argue that the Guji Oromo living in the Nech Sar National Park negotiate and/or appropriate governmental conservationist rhetoric as a pragmatic strategy to maneuver the government’s conservation practices for their advantage.

Author Biography

Asebe Regassa Debelo, Dilla University

PhD Candidate


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How to Cite

Debelo, A. R. (2017). Competing Epistemologies: Conservationist Discourses and Guji Oromo’s Sacred Cosmologies. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 11(2), 249–267.



CLOSED- Special Issue: Ecocosmologies