Fiddling while Madagascar burns. Deforestation discourses and highland history
Madagascar has been highlighted as a hotspot for biodiversity because of its unique natural history and a high level of endemism. This heritage of biodiversity is believed to be at serious risk, due to deforestation caused by local people. This paper concerns the landscape of the Madagascar highlands, and how interpretations of them have changed the past century. A social constructivist approach reveals two opposing views about the vegetation cover and seeks to unfold which specific scientific paradigms, narratives or received wisdom they are based on. Most important are changing paradigms in ecology, from classic equilibrium ecology to non-equilibrium ecology, and changes in social sciences from a structural to an interactionist approach. Another important aspect addressed in the paper is the impact of the re-interpretations on environmental policy and management. The Ambohitantely Special Reserve is used as a case to illustrate how interpretations of forest history are influenced by the hegemonic discourse.