Nobody Likes Dichotomies (But Sometimes You Need Them)

Helen Kopnina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Environmental anthropologists attempt to accommodate social justice while seeking to reconcile more-than-human relations and responsibilities towards their habitats. This article acknowledges areas of tension between local livelihoods and international conservation efforts, between indigenous peoples and wildlife, between traditional lifeways and development, and finally between different types of ethical assumptions that underlie anthropological advocacy. A number of dichotomies that are inherent in these tensions are discussed. With regard to the ecocentric/anthropocentric dichotomy, I argue that while human and environmental interests are sometimes intertwined, ecocentrism is necessary if non-humans are to be protected outside of utilitarian interests. With regard to the ‘neoliberal conservation/local communities’ dichotomy, I argue that blaming conservation for the violation of social justice depoliticises the issue of ecological injustice. Through a critical discussion of these dichotomies, this article examines the role of environmental anthropology in addressing today’s pressing environmental issues, particularly the loss of biodiversity, with respect to the ‘conservation’ of communities and that of protected areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-429
Number of pages15
JournalAnthropological Forum
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


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