Seeing like the state or like pastoralists? Conflicting narratives on the governance of Sámi reindeer husbandry in Finnmark, Norway
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionNorsk Geografisk Tidsskrift. 2015, 69 (4), 230-241. 10.1080/00291951.2015.1033747
The article examines key actors’ perceptions on why Norwegian policy objectives aimed at securing sustainable reindeer husbandry through participation have failed in West Finnmark. Based on government documents, media debates, and interviews with the actors, the authors identify two competing narratives on why there are ‘too many reindeer’ despite continued state efforts at destocking. The dominant narrative claims that participation is unsuccessful because herders do not accept expert advice, but increase their herds for personal gain. The Sámi pastoralists’ counter-narrative claims that lack of transparency hinders participation and policy implementation. Inspired by political ecology and perspectives on governance within development studies, the authors examine why the government’s narrative dominates public debates, while the counter-narrative remains marginalized. They find that the dominant narrative frames destocking as an apolitical and objective measure based on unequivocal scientific advice, while the pastoralists’ rejection of such advice is presented as ignorant and irrational. The dominant narrative’s authority is further increased by numerous press reports (repeated in social media) of overstocking threatening biodiversity and economic development. The authors conclude that due to the persistence of the dominant narrative, it has become an undisputed truth in Norwegian debates that Sámi pastoralists are overstocking to maximize their benefits.