Accepted Paper:

Examining the circulation of nature-cultures in Japanese NGOs   


Catherine (Annie) Claus (American University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines intersections and conflicts among international conservation non-governmental organization (NGO) staff members, illustrating how EuroAmerican nature ideals are upheld by staff members in Japan in spite of the prevalence of different nature ideals there.

Paper long abstract:

Staff members of international conservation organizations comprise "epistemic communities" that constantly exchange information about the status, approaches and progress of their conservation programs. Their ability to recognize diverse natures and communicate about them across cultural boundaries makes them agents of social change. Based on 18 months of fieldwork in a Japanese branch of an international conservation organization, this presentation analyzes various ways these epistemic communities fracture unexpectedly across scales and geographies. I analyze Japanese discourses of exceptionalism with respect to nature, and describe the kinds of conservation interventions that conservationists argue emerge from and are appropriate to protecting and managing these "Asian" natures. International organizations like WWF are embroiled in diverse types of work, some tied to wilderness ideals and some not. I illustrate how Japanese staff members of the NGO police the boundaries of dominant EuroAmerican nature ideals, failing to circulate their own nature ideals around the international network. Those entrenched ideals will pose increasing challenges for environmentalism in the Anthropocene.

Panel P100
Revisiting the culture/nature divide under the conditions of global forces