Postnormal Conservation

Botanic Gardens and the Reordering of Biodiversity Governance

By Katja Grötzner Neves

Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology, Environmental Studies, Social And Cultural History
Series: SUNY series in Environmental Governance: Local-Regional-Global Interactions
Hardcover : 9781438474557, 250 pages, June 2019
Paperback : 9781438474564, 250 pages, January 2020

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Table of contents

Peter Stoett and Owen Temby


Introduction 1
I. 1 Botanic Gardens and the Reordering of Biodiversity Conservation
I. 2 Trouble in the Garden: Facing the Anthropocene’s Onto-Epistemological Challenges
I. 3 “Ontopolitics,” Postnormal Science, and Governance in the Anthropocene
I. 4 The Transnational Embededness of Botanical Garden Biodiversity Governance
I. 5 Chapter Overview 32

1. Botanical Garden Histories of Governance
1. 1 Opening Vignette: Writing Postnormal Conservation
1. 2 Botanic Gardens, Modernity, and Governance
1. 3 The Reinvention of Botanic Gardens as Agents of Biodiversity Conservation in the Anthropocene
1. 4 Life-Governing Rationalities and Coexisting Environmentalities: Botanic Gardens as Institutions of Governance
1. 5 Chapter Conclusions

2. Botanical Knowledge, Power, and Governance: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the Longue Durée
2. 1 Opening Vignette: From Economic Botany to the Botany of Conservation
2. 2 Planting Empires, Growing Economies: The Gilded Age of Botanic Gardens
2. 3 Risen from the Ashes? Kew’s Rebirth as Center of Calculation in the Anthropocene
2. 4 People and Plants at Kew: Challenges and Adaptations
2. 5 Chapter Conclusions

3. Postnormal Conservation at Espace Pour la Vie
3. 1 Opening Vignette: Challenges and Paradoxes of Twenty-First-Century Governance
3. 2 Coproducing the Monarch Butterfly as a Hyperboundary Object
3. 3 A “First Point of Contact with Nature”: Relational Monarch Ontologies of Conservation
3. 4 Butterflies, Public Engagement, and Postnormal Conservation
3. 5 Chapter Conclusions

4. Communities in Nature: Multispecies Care at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Bristol Zoo Gardens
4. 1 Opening Vignette: “Communities in Nature”
4. 2 Doing “Conservation ‘Stuff’ in Place, around the Planet”: The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Edible Gardening Project
4. 3 Creating Champions for the Future: “Once You Think about It, the Possibilities Are Unlimited . . . ”
4. 4 Lessons Learned from Communities in Nature
4. 5 Chapter Conclusions

5. Concluding Remarks


Explores the evolving role of botanic gardens from products and enablers of modernity and the nation-state, to their recent reinvention as institutions of environmental governance.


2020 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

Since their inception in the sixteenth century, botanic gardens have been embroiled with matters of governance. In Postnormal Conservation, Katja Grötzner Neves reveals that, throughout its long history, the botanical garden institution has been both a product and an enabler of modernity and the Westphalian nation-state. Initially intertwined with projects of colonialism and empire building, contemporary botanic gardens have reinvented themselves as environmental governance actors. They are now at the forefront of emerging forms of networked transnational governance. Building on social studies of science that reveal the politicization of science as the producer of contingent, high-stakes, and uncertain knowledge, and the concomitant politicization of previously taken-for-granted science-policy interfaces, Neves contends that institutions like botanic gardens have discursively deployed postnormal science and posthuman precepts to justify their growing involvement with biodiversity conservation governance within the Anthropocene.

Katja Grötzner Neves is Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University, Canada.


"Anyone interested in climate change and how enlightened governments can help ensure the biodiversity of the planet will find this a compelling book. It is full of dramatic examples illustrating how politics and personal interests must combine to save the planet as we know it, or perhaps more accurately, as it once was … Highly recommended. " — CHOICE

"This is a unique contribution to the study of 'green' neoliberalism. I do not know of another scholarly book that undertakes an analysis of the global history of botanical gardens in relation to political/economic formations and transformations. This is an outstanding and deeply significant work. " — Tracey Heatherington, author of Wild Sardinia: Indigeneity and the Global Dreamtimes of Environmentalism

"Neves has undertaken a comprehensive review of pertinent literature to create an argument that traditional approaches to conservation no longer apply and that we need to adopt a holistic approach that considers both species and cultural preservation. The future of our planet depends on it. This is an important book that points to a central role for botanic gardens in preserving and celebrating the biological and cultural diversity of this planet. " — Donald A. Rakow, Cornell University