Towards a Critical Social Theory of Landscape Perceptions and Experiences of Land-use Change in Chepareria, Kenya

Published on November 1, 2013 | Author: Julia Wernersson

Increasing human pressure on ecological systems has triggered a need to understand the complexities of human-environment dynamics. Using land-use as an example this thesis asks, how do individuals belonging to different social strata perceive and experience land-use? As well as, what do these perceptions and experiences say about the relationships between the post-structurally defined concepts agency, knowledge and landscape in the land-use dynamics?
Perceptions and experiences are analyzed together with the post-structural concepts in order to understand the conscious and unconscious human and non-human forces that affect human-environment dynamics. This is applied on a case study in Kenya, West Pokot, Chepareria where a land-use change has taken place. Data was collected through one to two hour-long semi- structured interviews with respondents in Chepareria on their individual perceptions and experiences of land-use change. The concepts agency, knowledge and landscape are used to encourage analyses into; power as a multidimensional, dynamic and decentralised force; the effect of social structures and institutions; and the contextualisation and social construction of time and space.

Through the analysis of land-use change in Chepareria, interesting themes emerge on land-use dynamics. Subjectivity is found to have an important effect on land-use decisions and outcomes, which is seen for instance clearly in gender structures. Power saturates these structures of subjectivity, affecting agency and knowledge in their multiple forms for groups and individuals. Individual perspectives and experiences of the agency individual’s hold, and the forms of knowledge individual’s possess, constrains and creates opportunities, ultimately materialising and manifesting in the landscape. This can be seen in the politics of land-use where social orders can be including and excluding. Individual land-use perceptions and experiences are thus affected by a multitude of factors such as, but not limited to, different social structures and institutions, access to information, land-use constraints and opportunities, external and internal pressures, and future and past expectations and fears. Finally, all these aspects are affected by global, national and local levels that co-produce structures within the Cheparerian context. The findings show that post-structural social theory can contribute by highlighting the important, but often overlooked, human and non-human factors affecting human-environment dynamics.
Wernersson, J.E.V. (2013). Towards a Critical Social Theory of Landscape Perceptions and Experiences of Land-use Change in Chepareria, Kenya. Master’s Thesis. School of Global Studies. University of Gothenburg.
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