Evers 2012. Journal Madagascar Conservation & Development

Ideology and the self-fulfilling prophecy in conservation and social science research

Sandra J. T. M. Evers


In this essay, I propose an analytical model, ‘zones of intermediality’, designed to research socio-cultural dynamics in foreign large-scale land projects. ‘Zones of intermediality’ refers to the ontological grids of (inter)national-local stakeholder encounters where diverse ideologies, discourses and practices of land use and valuation are mediated. The model was constructed to analyze conceptual similarities and differences between and within stakeholder groups in such land projects. Just as local ‘communities’ are composed of people with varied social realities, economies, political relations, knowledge, views and perceptions, so are other stakeholder groups. Researchers are not immune to such realities. The subjectivity and epistemologycal rooting of the researcher impact on what he or she sees in the field and what is eventually reported in research publications. Thus, the essay argues for a reflection on these processes in view of the fact that we ourselves mediate representations of ‘local’ people to academic and non-academic audiences. I hope that the ‘zones of intermediality’ model will be useful in facilitating such reflections.


Dans cet article, je propose de considérer un modèle analytique dénommé ‘zones d’intermédialité’ conçu pour faire progresser les outils de recherche des dynamiques socioculturelles associées avec des projets d’acquisition foncière de grande envergure en Afrique continentale et à Madagascar. Le modèle ‘zones d’intermédialité’ s’inscrit dans des grilles ontologiques de rencontres d’intervenants (inter)nationaux à locaux dans lesquelles divers idéologies, discours et pratiques ont une influence sur l’utilisation des terres et sur l’évaluation foncière. Le modèle a été conçu pour procéder à une analyse détaillée des différences et des similarités entre et au sein de tels projets d’acquisition foncière. Au même titre que les ‘communautés’ locales sont constituées de personnes avec des réalités sociales, économiques et politiques différentes, et que cette diversité a un effet sur leur opinion et leurs perceptions, convient-il de préciser que ces diverses réalités s’imposent également aux autres groupes d’intervenants et même aux chercheurs qui ne sont pas indifférents à de telles réalités. Les racines subjectives et épistémologiques du chercheur influencent ce qu’il observe sur le terrain et ce qu’il rapporte ultérieurement dans ses publications. C’est pour toutes ces raisons que j'invite à une réflexion sur ces procédés dans la mesure où nous sommes nous-mêmes amenés à influencer les représentations des gens locaux destinés à un public universitaire ou non. J’espère que le modèle ‘zones d’intermédialité’ facilitera de telles réflexions.



conservation, development, intermediality, mediation, scale-making, développement, enquêtes, accaparement des terres, Madagascar, intermédialité,

Full Text:



Appadurai, A. 1996. The production of locality In: Counterworks: Managing the Diversity of Knowledge. R. Fardon (ed.), pp 204–225. Routledge, London.

Arce, A. and Long N. (eds.). 2000. Anthropology, Development and Modernities: Exploring Discourse, Countertendencies and Violence. Routledge, New York.

Bloch, M. 2008. Durkheimian anthropology and religion: Going in and out of each other’s bodies. In: Religion, Anthropology and Cognitive Science. H. Whitehouse and J. Laidlaw (eds.), pp 63–80. Carolina Academic Press, Durham.

Bloch, M. 2011. The Blob. Anthropology in this Century. http://aotcpress.com/articles/blob/ accessed 28 November 2011.

Bloch, M. 2012. Anthropology and the Cognitive Challenge. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Blumer, H. 1986. Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.

Bourdieu, P. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Bourdieu, P. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

Cotula, L., Vermeulen, S., Leonard, R. and Keeley, J. 2009. Land Grab or Development Opportunity? Agricultural Investments and International Land Deals in Africa. FAO, IFAD, and IIED, London. Available at http://www.ifad.org/pub/land/land_grab.pdf

Deininger, K., Byerlee, D. with J. Lindsay, A. Norton, H. Selod, and M. Stickler. 2010. Rising global interest in farmland: can it yield sustainable and equitable benefits? World Bank, Washington, DC. Available at http://sit-eresources.worldbank.org/INTARD/Resources/ESW_Sept7_final_final.pdf

de Sardan, O. 2005. Anthropology and Development. Understanding Contemporary Social Change. Zed Books, London.

Donsbach, W. (ed.). 2008. The International Encyclopaedia of Communication. Wiley-Blackwell, San Francisco.

Evers, S. J. T. M. 2002. Constructing History, Culture and Inequality. The Betsileo in the Extreme Southern Highlands of Madagascar. Brill Academic Publishers, Leiden.

Evers, S. J. T. M. 2006. Expropriated from the hereafter: The fate of the landless in the southern highlands of Madagascar. Journal of Peasant Studies 33, 3: 413–444. (doi:10.1080/03066150601062928)

Evers, S. J. T. M. 2010. Interview Madagascar Conservation & Development: Social science and conservation in Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development 5, 2: 121–122.

Fairhead, J., Leach, M. and Scoones, I. 2012. Green grabbing: a new appropriation of nature? Journal of Peasant Studies 39, 2: 237–261.

Goffman, E. 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. The Overlook Press, New York.

Griswold, W. 1987. The fabrication of meaning: literary interpretation in the United States, Great Britain, and the West Indies. American. Journal of Sociology 92, 5: 1077–1117.

Griswold, W. 1992. The writing on the mud wall: Nigerian novels and the imaginary village. American Sociological Review: 57, 6: 709–724

Griswold, W. 1993. Recent moves in the sociology of literature. Annual Review of Sociology 19: 455–467.

IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development). 2009. ‘Land grabs’ in Africa: can the deals work for development? (Briefing, September 2009). Available at http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/17069IIED.pdf

Long, N. 1989. Encounters at the Interface: a Perspective on Social Discontinuities in Rural Development. Wageningen University, Wageningen.

Long, N. and Long A. (eds.). 1992. Battlefields of Knowledge: The Interlocking of Theory and Practice in Social research and development. Routledge, London.

Mohr, J. W. 1998. Measuring meaning. Annual Review of Sociology 24: 345–370.

Mosse, D. 2005. Cultivating Development: An Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice. Pluto Press, London.

Mosse, D. 1994. Authority, gender and knowledge: Theoretical reflections on the practice of participatory rural appraisal. Development and Change 25, 3: 497–526. (doi:10.1111/j.1467-7660.1994.tb00524.x)

Odden. H. L. 2011. The impact of primary schools on the differential distri¬bution of Samoan adolescents’ competence with honorific language. Current Anthropology 52, 4: 597–606.

Ribot, J. C. and Peluso, N. L. 2003. A theory of access. Rural Sociology 68, 2: 151–181. (doi:10.1111/j.1549-0831.2003.tb00133.x)

Smaller, C. and Mann, H. 2009. A thirst for distant Lands: foreign investment in agricultural land and water. International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) (May 2009). Available at http://www.fao.org/file¬admin/templates/est/INTERNATIONAL-TRADE/FDIs/A_Thirst_for_dis-tant_lands.pdf

Tsing, A. L. 2005. Friction. An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.

Vigh, H. 2009. Motion squared: A second look at the concept of social navigation. Anthropological Theory. 9, 4: 419–438. (doi:10.1177/1463499609356044)

von Braun, J. and Meinzen-Dick, R. S. 2009. ‘Land grabbing’ by foreign investors in developing countries: Risks and opportunities. Policy Brief 13, April 2009. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, DC. Available at http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/bp013all.pdf

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mcd.v7i3.2

Madag. conserv. dev.
ISSN: 1662-2510