Naturalising Distinctions: The Contested Field of Environmental Relations in Costa Rica

Mark Johnson, Suzanne Clisby

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6 Citations (Scopus)
125 Downloads (Pure)


This paper draws on Bourdieu's notion of ‘the field’, a contested domain of relations of power, as a way to think about the social relations of environmentalism. More specifically, we suggest that talk about the environment and its protection is an increasingly important arena of struggle for social legitimacy and distinction. We illustrate that point through a consideration of two situations in Costa Rica, drawing on our own and others' research. The first is Costa Rican farmers talking about their encounters with environmentalism in the Monte Verde highlands. The second is European migrants in a small coastal village talking about the environment and threats to it. In both, talk about the environment involved comparing and contrasting the ways that different sorts of people were said to relate to nature and the surroundings, and it identifies one set of people as better suited to protect the environment than others. However, that talk took place in a situation where environmentalism is a key form of symbolic capital, interchangeable with and inextricably linked to other forms of social and economic power, deployed in ways that set the rules of the game in favour of some people and not others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-187
Number of pages17
JournalLandscape Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • environmentalism
  • Costa Rica
  • Bourdieu


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