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Making sense of the social: Human-nonhuman constellations and the wicked road to sustainability

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-49
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Social questions become especially tangible in the context of human-nonhuman interrelations. This article focuses on coexistential practices in the context of management, protection, and production and it clarifies how the social in par-ticular empirical cases is enacted. The work is based on three empirical case studies. We explore the conflicts in for-estry and urban planning caused by the Siberian flying squirrel; the increased presence of the grey wolf; and the par-adox of the domestic pig-a clever animal that is treated harshly by factory-farming practices. As our cases indicate, the social is not a group of people living in a certain setting according to certain norms and traditions. The social is a contingent, activated constellation of interagentivities that emerges together with a shared concern that particular customs and habits are not serving the purpose they are expected to serve. The cases challenge efforts to adopt a human-centered view of the social as the basis for developing the concept of sustainability. They also indicate that there is no one social sustainability, but rather many articulations of the concept.


  • Animal welfare, Case studies, Conflict resolution, Environmental sociology, Human-environment relationship, Wildlife management