Relational Epistemology, Immediacy, and Conservation

Or, What Do the Nayaka Try to Conserve?


  • Nurit Bird-David University of Haifa
  • Danny Naveh University of Haifa



Nayaka, animism, conservation


In this paper we ask whether and in what way Animism relate to conservation, with focus on one group, the Nayaka of South India. We argue that in order to pursue this question one must first recognize the immediate quality of Nayaka Animism as well as some important aspects in their relational epistemology (Bird-David 1999, 2006). Our analysis shows that Nayaka are not committed to conserve their environment. Their concern lies mainly with keeping good relations with specific co-dwellers in the shared environment in ways and for reasons which we explore in the paper. This concern has indeed some conservationist effects, but as byproduct. Our analysis also shows a valuable way-of-knowing, as much as the nowadays appreciated ‘indigenous knowledge’. These arguments are supported by Nayaka ethnography, and are further clarified by a preliminary heuristic comparison between the model which can be read into the ethnography and the model which informs an ambitious international program for biodiversity conservation which is implemented in the Nilgiris of South India, where the Nayaka live.

Author Biographies

Nurit Bird-David, University of Haifa

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Haifa, Israel

Danny Naveh, University of Haifa

Department of Sociology and Anthropology


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How to Cite

Bird-David, N., & Naveh, D. (2008). Relational Epistemology, Immediacy, and Conservation: Or, What Do the Nayaka Try to Conserve?. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 2(1), 55–73.