Forum theatre as a mechanism to explore representation of local people's values in environmental governance: a case of study from Chiapas, Mexico.

Published online
09 Mar 2023
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Olvera-Hernández, S. & Mesa-Jurado, M. A. & Novo, P. & Martin-Ortega, J. & Walsh, A. & Holmes, G. & Borchi, A.
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Nature degradation, poverty and social discrimination are some of the consequences of unfair decision-making over environmental resources within rural communities in the Global South. Barriers to achieving fair environmental decisions are entrenched power differences and the lack of representation of the diversity of local values in environmental decision-making. Using intersectionality and value pluralism as a conceptual base, this is the first paper to examine the potential of Forum Theatre, a performance arts-based method, to discuss 'solutions' regarding power differences and values towards nature in environmental decision-making. We implemented Forum Theatre in two rural villages in Chiapas, Mexico, framed around conflicts and power differences in eco-tourism development. Participants felt empathy with the Forum Theatre characters and dissatisfaction over the conflicts, and this motivated them to engage and participate in collective reflections on their own personal experiences with power differences in environmental decision-making. From these reflections, participants performed diverse 'solutions' to the conflicts, bringing to the fore plural interconnected and dynamic values towards nature in these narratives. Despite this, Forum Theatre does not look to 'solve' conflicts; it is a safe space to explore how power differences and values towards nature play out in environmental decision-making. Results offer a promising picture of the potential of Forum Theatre as an opening where participants could discuss power differences and values towards nature. However, establishing its potential as a tool in environmental decision-making would require engaging those involved in implementing environmental decisions that affect the communities but who operate from other levels of the governance structure, such as policy-makers and large NGOs.

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