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Making Culture Matter

Speaker: Professor Terre Satterfield (Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia)

Series: Why Culture Matters

Starts: 25 April 2013

Making Culture Matter: Tangible and Intangible Properties of Culture, their Measurement and Meaning, in Environmental Management Contexts

Thursday April 25th
5.30pm drinks for a 6.00pm lecture
Committee Rooms, Glamorgan Building
A buffet will follow the lecture

Eventbrite - Making Culture Matter –Tangible and Intangible Properties of Culture, their Measurement and Meaning, in Environmental Management Contexts


Collaborations between anthropologists, whose expertise is culture, and scientists whose domain is biodiversity, are increasingly common but also commonly fraught.  Anthropologists have long struggled to define culture. Yet, they are tempted to engage in collaborations fearing decisions will be made that are devoid of cultural considerations, or that a practitioner from ‘elsewhere’ will employ a ‘measure of culture’ that is poorly or naively conceived. Those from an economic or biophysical training must grapple instead with the intangible properties of culture as they intersect with market, ecological or other more materialist measures.

This paper examines such collaborations via multiple cases of environmental management, wherein culture (variously described) was a critical variable in environmental decision making: the case of New Zealand’s Risk Management agency and local Maori concerns about genetically modified organisms, a case of marine planning in coastal British Columbia, and in particular the assessment of environmental-and-so-cultural impact in the case of a proposed oil pipeline and shipping route. The goal is to examine how ‘culture’ came to be manifest and operationalised in each, and as articulating with environmental parameters and assessment. We then explore which conflicts about ‘representing and measuring’ culture were resolved and through what kinds of methodological experimentation. The paper’s conclusions examine the theoretical impasse that such questions inspire, the tradeoffs that necessarily follow in order to desire for relevance on the ground, and why both matter.  

Professor Terre Satterfield
Professor Terre Satterfield


Terre Satterfield is an interdisciplinary social scientist; professor of culture, risk and the environment; and director of the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. Her research concerns sustainable thinking and action in the context of environmental assessment and decision making. She studies natural resource controversies; culture and cultural ecosystem services; and the perceived risk of new technologies. She has worked primarily on tensions between indigenous communities and the state and/or regulatory dilemmas regarding new technologies. Her work has been published in journals such as: Nature; Global Environmental Change; Ecology and Society; Journal of Environmental Management; Biosciences; Society and Natural Resources; Land Economics; Science and Public Policy; Ecological Economics; Environmental Values; and Risk Analysis. Her books include: The Anatomy of a Conflict: Emotion, Knowledge and Identity in Old Growth Forests; What’s Nature Worth? (with Scott Slovic); and The Earthscan Reader in Environmental Values (with Linda Kalof).

Committee Rooms, Glamorgan Building

Other information

Open To: Public
Staff and Students