The Promise of the Discourse of the Sacred for Conservation (and its Limits)
Keywords:sacredness, indiginous religion
Popular concepts of ‘nature as sacred’—particularly when intentionally borrowed from or rhetorically/conceptually connected to indigenous world views—may be beneficial for conservation—but they also carry dangers. The rhetoric of the sacred raises questions of power when deployed in someone’s interest, especially, but not only, with regard to indigenous peoples. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Mexico, this article analyzes the human dimensions of conservation with regard to the significance of the sacred in recent conservation theory. I focus on the ways in which indigenous views of the sacred, and idealized notions of sacredness and spirituality, are mobilized for nature conservation, and on the role power asymmetry plays in disputes over nature, and with regard to places considered sacred in both indigenous and non-indigenous areas.
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