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From Field to Fantasy: Classifying Nature, Constructing Europe.

Waterton, C. (2002) From Field to Fantasy: Classifying Nature, Constructing Europe. Social Studies of Science, 32 (2). pp. 177-204.

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Abstract

This paper sets out some observations on the making, and use, of contemporary classifications of nature in the context of a simultaneous and on-going `making' of Europe. It looks in particular at two classifications, one of British vegetation communities and the other of European `biotopes' (a concept that closely relates to natural or semi-natural `habitats') - respectively, the UK National Vegetation Classification (NVC) and the EU CORINE Biotopes Classification. It investigates aspects of the relationship between these two classifications which has come about through their use in a European conservation policy. The CORINE Biotopes classification, in particular, represents a new ordering of nature in a very active sense: it is a good example of a `working archive', and is intimately tied into policy decisions at many levels in Europe. The paper addresses questions as to how contemporary classifications are being made and used, and whether certain tacit understandings and conceptual frameworks `built in' to them reflect back upon the world at a later stage. It argues that these classifications do not always simply reflect the assumptions and understandings built into them: once in the policy domain, they are not as `reversible' as that. Their categories quickly become unstable, mutating and interacting in sometimes unpredictable ways. The two classifications, through their relationship with policy, have a jointly evolving history. The continual renewal of meaning attached to classes within these classifications appears to reflect outwards rather than inwards - in chorus with the broader social and political context, rather than reflecting the condition of their making. In their evolving forms, they illustrate very well the complex nature of the dynamic between unity and diversity, centre and periphery, that lies at the heart of the European Union.

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Social Studies of Science
Additional Information: RAE_import_type : Journal article RAE_uoa_type : Sociology
Uncontrolled Keywords: classification • CORINE Biotopes • ethnography • habitats • NVC • policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences > Politics & International Relations (Merged into PPR 2010-08-01)
Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
ID Code: 3519
Deposited By: ep_importer
Deposited On: 13 Mar 2008 14:45
Refereed?: Yes
Published?: Published
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2012 17:46
Identification Number:
URI: http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/id/eprint/3519

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