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Through the eyes of another: using a narrative lens to navigate complex social-ecological systems and to embrace multiple ways of knowing
Relva, J.V.; Jung, J. (2021). Through the eyes of another: using a narrative lens to navigate complex social-ecological systems and to embrace multiple ways of knowing. Front. Mar. Sci. 8: 678796.
In: Frontiers in Marine Science. Frontiers Media: Lausanne. ISSN 2296-7745, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

Author keywords
    narratives; reflection; co-existence; knowledge production; marine socio-ecological systems

Authors  Top 
  • Relva, J.V., more
  • Jung, J.

    Many social-ecological issues are characterised by a multiplicity of stakeholder voices with often fundamentally divergent values, beliefs or worldviews. Those differences in perspective can be also viewed as different narratives on individual, community and cultural scales that both express and reinforce people’s identity, value system and manifested behaviours. Navigating between those narratives requires approaches that facilitate the co-existence of multiple ways of knowing. The currently dominant knowledge production system of Western scientific knowledge often fails to meet those challenges due to its positivist and reductionist tendencies. However, embracing a co-existence of knowledges isn’t just necessary from a pragmatic perspective to adequately engage in those situations, but also represents an ethical imperative that includes acknowledging the colonial and oppressive history of Western scientific knowledge toward other knowledges, especially regarding Indigenous knowledge production systems. We propose adopting a narrative lens as a metaphor for embracing multiple ways of knowing and being as narratives play a key role for human cognition, communication and in shaping and expressing fundamental values at different levels. Using an example of contested narratives from a fisheries management conflict, we illustrate how narratives can help to develop a richer understanding of social-ecological conflicts. We also reflect on some narrative discourses commonly used in marine science that stem from the binary nature-culture divide prominent in Western scientific knowledge and discuss their implication for hindering sustainable ocean governance. Furthermore, we demonstrate how storytelling methods can be used to surface and share those narratives and to unravel the underlying values and fundamental beliefs and to re-shape them. The narrative lens we propose is suitable under multiple simultaneous disciplinary homes including Indigenous methodologies and systems thinking. They share the key features of having a holistic and relational approach that recognises the co-existence of multiple ways of knowing and being and use self-reflection as key for critical engagement with the situation and to surface and acknowledge one’s own internal narratives. This represents no exhaustive review of narrative inquiry, but a reflective journey illustrating how engaging with narratives can facilitate knowledge co-existence including different ways of relating to human and non-human beings.

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