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


  • Sandra J. T. M. Evers Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology VU University Amsterdam Amsterdam


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


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.


Author Biography

Sandra J. T. M. Evers, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology VU University Amsterdam Amsterdam

Sandra Evers is associate professor and senior researcher at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Dr Evers’ research programmes principally address issues of cultural transmission and change. In this regard, she directs two Research Programmes: (1) Development as a Trojan Horse? Foreign Large-scale Land Acquisitions in Ethiopia, Madagascar and Uganda” for which she recently was awarded the funding (including four PhD projects) by NWO-Wotro in recognition of its groundbreaking features and excellence; (2) Culturing Neuroscience: Self-representation, Mediation and Theory of Mind among Children and Adolescents in the Netherlands. This Programme is also considered innovative as it brings disciplines together, neuroscience and the social sciences, whose approaches to research with children hitherto had been conducted in relative isolation.


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