Framing in geographical analysis of environmental conflicts: Theory, methodology and three case studies

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    ing and facilitate compromise or resolution.When applied to environmental concerns, understanding and

    being able to elicit interested parties frames offers indispensableinformation for dealing with complex issues relevant to geographyas well as planning and environmental studies. Geographers havelong worked with information about environmental perceptionand behavior, applying observational and narrative methods tothe study of how people perceive, understand and interpret events

    control of territory and resources; the impact of spatial patternsand structures on the siting of noxious facilities; and, more gener-ally, as a basis for creating a rich, informative and nuanced mode ofanalysis that can contribute helpful insights to the understandingand managing of human habitats in relation to the physicalenvironment. Framing not only deals with the power relationshipsbetween disputants and imbalances in the information bases thatshape different perceptions, but it also explicates the values andgoals that each party holds, pointing to avenues of compromisewhereby all may gain.

    Geoforum 39 (2008) 20482061

    Contents lists availab


    lseE-mail address: is a cognitive process whereby individuals and groupslter their perceptions, interpretations and understandings ofcomplex situations in ways consistent with their own socio-polit-ical, economic and cultural world views and experiences. The prac-tical utility of using framing as an analytical approach in managingenvironmental disputes is to clarify, simplify and communicate tothe parties within the conict the underlying roots of their respec-tive positions and interests in order to further mutual understand-

    groups construct their world views as an explanatory basis for theirattitudes and actions, none of these methodologies have developedcomparative databases that facilitate and validate such analyses.

    The purpose of this article is to introduce framing, and method-ology that can elicit or capture it, to address planning and environ-mental issues that have a strong spatial component frequently atthe heart of geographers studies: disputes over land ownershipand uses; competition for water resources; cultural clashes overtal conicts, planning disputes and other concerns of geographers.

    cally framing, may be a means of uniting the study of environmen- use and narratives, appreciating mutually understood norms and

    routines. Whereas Hajer does delve into how individuals and1. Introduction

    In the book review symposiumfuture, Agnew (2006) observed thahas become increasingly fragmentedtes it is methodological approacheshaps of what still gives some unityssiparous eld . . . the most useful cmethods ones. (Agnew, 2006, p. 110016-7185/$ - see front matter 2008 Elsevier Ltd. Adoi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2008.08.006raphy past, geographytime when geographyscipline, what best uni-rites: It is telling per-otherwise increasinglys in both books are thethodology, and speci-

    and issues (e.g. Lynch, 1960; Lowenthal, 1961; Burton and Kates,1964; Wright, 1966; Brookeld, 1969; Saarinen, 1976; Blaut,1987; Aitken et al., 1989; McGregor, 2004; Atkinson andDelamont,2006). Social psychologists Foucault (1966), Harre (1993) and Billig(1987) used discourse analysis to separate knowledge from ideasas a means of avoiding presuppositions. Hajer (1995) takes the con-cepts of this group and applies their method to contemporary pol-icy-making and looks at how language creates realities. Discourseanalysis and framing have a lot in common: text analysis, languageHuman geographic analysisIsraeli spatial land conicts

    2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Framing in geographical analysis of envirTheory, methodology and three case stud

    Deborah F. ShmueliDepartment of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905,

    a r t i c l e i n f o

    Article history:Received 20 February 2008Received in revised form 20 August 2008

    Keywords:Framing theoryFraming elicitation toolsGeographical environmental disputes

    a b s t r a c t

    When applied to environmwith potentially practicalpose of this article is to inwhich geographers commresources, cultural clashesand structures when sitingict in Israel and, more ghuman habitats in relation


    journal homepage: www.ell rights reserved.nmental conicts:s


    tal concerns, framing offers a rigorous conceptual and analytic approachicance for dealing with complex issues relevant to geography. The pur-uce framing concepts, typology and modes of analysis to address issuesy treat: disputes over land ownership and uses, competition for waterer control of territory and resources and the impact of spatial patternsious sites. Framing analysis is applied to three cases of environmental con-rally, for understanding conicts revolving around the management ofthe physical environment.

    le at ScienceDirect


    vier .com/locate /geoforum

  • reduce pollution within the Lower Kishon River Basin. The lessonslearned from these cases are relevant not only for Israel but for

    m 3many countries in the world.The article will rst provide an overview of the approach, and

    then present the three case studies. The analytical tools commonlyused in framing have been further developed by the author andcolleagues for future application specically to environmental con-icts in Israel and elsewhere (Shmueli et al., 2006). The three casesillustrate how framing analysis can be employed in different tradi-tions of geographic research to assess the complicated relation-ships between human societies and natural environments,examine the interplay of different cultures and explore the impactof spatial patterns on human behavior.

    The concept of framing evolved at the intersection of severaldisciplines, and is best seen as a social science approach to decod-ing and making sense of peoples behavior especially in situationswhere decisions have to be made. In the literature, it has been of-fered and dened as a concept that can be usefully applied indecision-making (e.g. Kahneman and Tversky, 1979); articialintelligence (e.g. Minsky, 1975); negotiations (e.g. Neale and Baz-erman, 1985; Gray, 1989; Pinkley, 1990); environmental conictmanagement (e.g.Stern et al., 1986; Lewicki and Davis, 1996; Gray,1997; Kaufman and Smith, 1999; Vaughan and Seifert, 1992;Elliottet al., 2003; Shmueli and Ben-Gal, 2004); psychology and sociol-ogy (e.g. Goffman, 1974; Gonos, 1977; Taylor, 2000); social move-ment theory and place framing (Martin, 2003; Larsen, 2008). Ithas also been applied in the eld of business management (e.g.Watzlawick et al., 1974; Goldratt, 1990). In all these applications,the use of framing has been retrospective and summative: analy-ses have looked back at events and their connection to frameselicited from main actors. In this application, it will also be usedas a tool for future actions that may help reconcile differencesand disputes.

    As cognitive devices, frames are interpretive lenses throughwhich we see and make sense of complex situations in waysinternally consistent with our world views, giving meaning toevents in the context of life experience, understandings, and roles.As strategic communicative devices, frames help rationalize self-interest, persuade broader audiences, build coalitions or promotepreferred outcomes. Conicts rooted in geographical stakes (land,location and natural resources) are associated with complex andmutually reinforcing frames about oneself, others (characteriza-tion frames), risks, what information should apply to the situation,and how decisions should be made. The three case studiespresented in this paper have important geographical stakes andillustrate well the interpretive and strategic uses of frames incontested situations.

    2. Frames and framing overview

    The word frame can be used both as a noun (a frame) and as averb (to frame). As a noun, frame connotes the boundary withinwhich a picture is displayed and set apart from the background;it plays a ltering role in perception, interpretation and under-standing of specic situations. The verb to frame refers to theThree empirically-based case studies of environmental conictsin Israel illustrate how framing concepts and methods employed inthis paper can be developed and deployed, and the degree to whichthey can be helpful in managing or resolving the disputes. Theseare (1) the siting of the Dudaim National Waste Disposal Facility;(2) the Arab Town of Sachnins legal struggle to expand its munici-pal boundaries; and (3) the conicts stemming from proposals to

    D.F. Shmueli / Geoforucrafting of a frame, whether deliberately or not, during communi-cation. Depending on the context, it may be used to conceptualizeand interpret, or manipulate and persuade.While there are several perspectives on frames and how theyare generated, one research stream casts frames as cognitive de-vices, while the other stresses its communicative role. In the cogni-tive view, frames help individuals cut through complexity byltering, simplifying and categorizing in-coming information(e.g., Lewicki et al., 1999; Taylor, 2000; Goldratt, 1990; KahnemanandTverski, 1979; Neale andBazerman, 1985; Vaughan andSeifert,1992). These cognitive structures help to reduce information over-load, and operate as models of reality that trade detail for clarity.Such frames help to make sense of the situation, identifying andinterpreting aspects that seem key to understanding, and relegat-ing some information to the background as less important. An indi-viduals frames, often but not always coincident with those of thegroup, help to organize phenomena into coherent, understandablecategories, giving meaning to some observed aspects, while dis-counting others that appear irrelevant or dissonant with the al-ready digested information or with interests. This selectivesimplication lters peoples perceptions and denes and tosome extent limits their elds of vision, leading at times to shar-ply divergent interpretations of an observed event.

    How people comprehend the impacts of human actions uponthe landscape varies with their framing. For example, when IsraeliJews look at Jewish settlements nestled within the Galilean hills,they view (frame) this landscape as the fulllment of the Zionistdream through the struggle for Israels independence, culminatingin the victory over Palestinian Arabs and the armies of six invadingArab states in May of 1948. Their frame is Atzmaut (Indepen-dence), an afrmation of historic claims to the land and serving na-tional security functions ( Kimmerling, 1983; Newman, 1989;Sternhell, 1997). Most Israeli Arabs look at the same geographicallandscape through their Naqba (Catastrophe) frame. They viewmany of these Jewish villages as having erased the remnants ofArab villages and usurped the farm and grazing lands either aban-doned at the outbreak or during 194748 conict in anticipation ofreturning with victorious Arab armies, or from which they wereforced during the ghting (Khouri, 1998; Morris, 2008).

    As with models, what makes frames useful their simplifyingeffect on complexity also makes them prone to error. Often theseinterpretive lenses remain remarkably stable for decades, regard-less of changed circumstances or emerging trends. Therefore theymay become blinders, leading one to discard subsequent informa-tion or coloring its interpretation, as in the Atzmaut Naqba exam-ple. Israels military security today is far more dependent uponhigh-tech military equipment and mobile armed forces than onfrontier outposts, and Israeli Arabs have become increasinglyurbanized, needing less farming land. Nevertheless, with regardto land, both frames remain constant.

    Linked to information processing, message patterns, linguisticcues, and socially constructed meanings, frames and reframingare vital to facilitating the discourse underlying many geographicaldisputes and to negotiating their resolutions. Knowing the framesin use and how they were constructed may help understand issueor dispute dynamics, inuence them to avoid negative conse-quences and help stakeholders nd new ways out of an impasse.

    From a communicative perspective (that involves interactionsamong actors in a situation rather than a single individualssense-making process), framing is strategic, intended to persuadeothers to ones own viewpoint, to gain advantage in negotiations,or to rally like-minded people to the cause (Putnam and Holmer,1992; Elliott et al., 2003). In describing spatial conicts, individualschoose terms that favor their side. Similarly, parties views aboutwhat is fair in a situation are often driven by their assessmentsof which fairness standards will benet them most.

    9 (2008) 20482061 2049Identication with a group falls within both the cognitive andcommunicative frame categories. It entails adhering to sharedframing of a situation either because we recognize it as our

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    m 3Table 1Framing typology: frames, what inuences them and their effects on stakeholders (re

    2050 D.F. Shmueli / Geoforuown, or because we see ourselves beneting from membership inthat group. In this vein, those who see the environment as intrin-sically valuable rather than as a commodity share a frame throughwhich they evaluate environment-related public decisions, andjoin groups defending that point of view. Even within seeminglycohesive groups, such as environmentalists, however, there are of-ten differences such as between advocates of nuclear power toreduce the greenhouse effect of oil or coal-red power plants,and those who oppose nuclear power because of possible radiationcontamination and waste storage problems. Identifying with agroup leads a person to ignore differences over issues of lesserimportance which may have potential value for tradeoffs innegotiations.

    Elements that cannot be discounted are unpredictable events,the role of a charismatic leader in a group or of the powerfuld, Shmueli and Ben-Gal, 2003)

    9 (2008) 20482061bureaucrat who transcends the socio-cultural or political normsof the group. Power relations still count as will be demonstratedin the case studies.

    3. Frame typology

    The framing approach in this paper is based on categorizingelements into a typology developed by the author and colleagues identity and values, phrasing, substance, process and character-ization providing a data-driven empirical dimension that facili-tates comparative analyses. Some of the frames that emerge indifferent contexts are of a general nature (characterizing own oropponents group) while other categories are situation-specic.For example, we would expect a land dispute to generate

  • Table 2Dudaim National Waste disposal site: identity/values versus substance frames

    Stakeholder Identity/values Substance


    Local/district Social/community Raise the imageit

    poliv comualitts

    andovaiv mringr th


    s fo


    D.F. Shmueli / Geoforum 39 (2008) 20482061 2051rights-related frames that would not be present in envir...


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