Since their inception in the sixteenth century, botanic gardens have been embroiled with matters of governance. In Postnormal Conservation, Katja Grötzner Neves reveals that, throughout its long history, the botanical garden institution has been both a product and an enabler of modernity and the Westphalian nation-state. Initially intertwined with projects of colonialism and empire building, contemporary botanic gardens have reinvented themselves as environmental governance actors. They are now at the forefront of emerging forms of networked transnational governance. Building on social studies of science that reveal the politicization of science as the producer of contingent, high-stakes, and uncertain knowledge, and the concomitant politicization of previously taken-for-granted science-policy interfaces, Neves contends that institutions like botanic gardens have discursively deployed postnormal science and posthuman precepts to justify their growing involvement with biodiversity conservation governance within the Anthropocene.
“This is a unique contribution to the study of ‘green’ neoliberalism. I do not know of another scholarly book that undertakes an analysis of the global history of botanical gardens in relation to political/economic formations and transformations. This is an outstanding and deeply significant work.” — Tracey Heatherington, author of Wild Sardinia: Indigeneity and the Global Dreamtimes of Environmentalism
“Neves has undertaken a comprehensive review of pertinent literature to create an argument that traditional approaches to conservation no longer apply and that we need to adopt a holistic approach that considers both species and cultural preservation. The future of our planet depends on it. This is an important book that points to a central role for botanic gardens in preserving and celebrating the biological and cultural diversity of this planet.” — Donald A. Rakow, Cornell University
Katja Grötzner Neves is Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University, Canada.