African Sacred Groves
Ecological Dynamics and Social Change
“This book provides an excellent reference for refocusing conservation efforts in Africa, and a useful paradigm to apply wherever preservation requires balancing ecological values with social and economic interests.”
“The great strength of African Sacred Groves is in demonstrating that sacred groves simultaneously represent ecological, socio-political, and symbolic processes.”
“The essays in this volume provide an enlightening tour of the issues around conservation and sacred sites. They demonstrate the complexities of the issues linking such sites to globalization, communal control of local resources, and its potential difficulties, and changing social and cultural practices.”
In Western scholarship, Africa’s so-called sacred forests are often treated as the remains of primeval forests, ethnographic curiosities, or cultural relics from a static precolonial past. Their continuing importance in African societies, however, shows that this “relic theory” is inadequate for understanding current social and ecological dynamics. African Sacred Groves challenges dominant views of these landscape features by redefining the subject matter beyond the compelling yet uninformative term “sacred.” The term “ethnoforests” incorporates the environmental, social-political, and symbolic aspects of these forests without giving undue primacy to their religious values. This interdisciplinary book by an international group of scholars and conservation practitioners provides a methodological framework for understanding these forests by examining their ecological characteristics, delineating how they relate to social dynamics and historical contexts, exploring their ideological aspects, and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses as sites for community-based resource management and the conservation of cultural and biological diversity.
Michael Sheridan is an assistant professor of anthropology at Middlebury College.
Celia Nyamweru teaches in the Department of Anthropology and the African Studies Program at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.
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