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“A shepherd has to invent”: Poetic analysis of social-ecological change in the cultural landscape of the central Spanish Pyrenees

Maria E. Fernández-Giménez, Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Colorado State University

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08054-200429

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Abstract

Since the mid-20th century, the Pyrenean pastoral social-ecological system (SES) has undergone socioeconomic and demographic transformations leading to changes in grazing practices and a decline in the livestock industry. Land abandonment has contributed to an ecological transition from herbaceous vegetation cover to shrublands and forests, leading to a loss of ecosystem services, including biodiversity and forage. I interviewed 27 stockmen (ganaderos) in two valleys of the central Pyrenees to document their traditional ecological knowledge and observations of environmental, social, economic, and cultural changes in the valleys. I used poetic analysis, a qualitative data analysis approach, to illustrate and analyze one ganadero’s experience of social-ecological change. First, I created seven poems based on an interview transcript with this ganadero. Second, I analyzed the poetry I created, to see what new insights and understanding about system dynamics and the lived experience of SES change emerged from analysis of the transcript re-presented as poetry. Third, I compared key themes that emerged from this analysis with findings across the other 26 interviews. Fourth, I read the poems and presented the associated analysis to multiple audiences, to gauge their impact and effectiveness in communicating research findings. Finally, I synthesized across the themes raised in the seven poems. Poetic analysis revealed emotional and cultural dimensions of change, especially the importance of occupational and place identity, in the experience of the ganadero. The transcript re-presented as poetry portrayed the ganadero as an agent in creating and maintaining a cultural landscape and as both an adaptor and resister to SES change. Poetic analysis also uncovered telling contradictions, adaptive capacities, and barriers to adaptation in this SES that went unappreciated with conventional qualitative analysis approaches. This exploratory study illustrates the potential of poetry as a method of data analysis and communication in SES research.

Key words

arts-based analysis; cultural ecosystem services; pastoralism; place attachment; place identity; rangelands; resilience

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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