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Forests as Patrimonies? From Theory to Tangible Processes at Various Scales

Genevieve Michon, IRD, UMR 220 GRED
Bruno Romagny, IRD
Laurent Auclair, IRD
Marc Deconchat, INRA and Université de Toulouse, ENSAT,


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Among theoretical fields addressing the conceptualization of interrelationships between nature and society, patrimonial approaches remain relatively unexplored. Stressing the multiplication of local dynamics where elements of nature are redefined as "patrimonies" (ranging from local patrimonies to world heritage) by various social groups, this conceptual field tries to qualify these dynamics and their determiners to understand how they allow us to better address contemporary environmental challenges. Through a multidisciplinary approach in social sciences, centered on rural forests, we analyze the multiplication of patrimonial processes in forest development at various scales.

First, we elaborate on the concept of patrimony and on patrimonial processes and present the current construction and dynamics of forest patrimonies. A crucial question concerns the links that form between the many spatial–temporal levels where these processes develop. Moreover, these patrimonial processes can be quite divergent, not only across scales from local to global, but also between “endogenous” (or bottom-up) and “exogenous” (or top-down) processes. We present two detailed examples in Morocco and Sumatra, where patrimonial constructions are developing simultaneously at various scales and through various actors who treat the forest in very different ways. Drawing from these examples, we discuss how and why the simultaneous development of different, often overlapping, patrimonial constructions along these scales allows collaboration or, conversely, can lead their holders into conflict. Lastly, we discuss the contribution of patrimonial concepts to resilience thinking and social–ecological systems theory.

Key words

international policies; local forest management; patrimonial processes and approaches

Copyright © 2012 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087