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Rural Sociology, Wiley, Volume 73, Ticket 1, p.105-133 (2008)



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Due to strict protection through the last decades, wolves have returned to many areas from which they have been absent for a long time. This is a conservation success story, but the wolves also cause conflicts wherever they arrive. We have studied the situation in South-Eastern Norway and in the French Alps, where the conflict patterns are similar. Diverging interpretations of the situation are supported by narratives, and two varieties have become increasingly significant in both countries. Rumors about the secret reintroduction of wolves are common among wolf adversaries. Another narrative, important to the pro-wolf camp, is based on the notion that particular sheep husbandry practices (unattended rough grazing) are unique to either Norway or France - whereas there are in fact more similarities than differences. Yet, while the reintroduction-conspiracy rumors are ridiculed, the notion of unique national conflict patterns has achieved a status almost of official truth. Furthermore, the story about natural wolf recovery is itself a value-laden narrative, and not only “scientific fact”. The different status of these narratives tell us something about power relations: Given their different social basis, it seems relevant to consider the national uniqueness image and the natural recovery theory as tightly interwoven with symbolic power, and the reintroduction conspiracy rumors as similarly interwoven with patterns of cultural resistance.


Humanities and Social Sciences/SociologyJournal articles

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