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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Louise Bracken

Emery, S.B., Perks, M.T. & Bracken, L.J. Negotiating river restoration: The role of divergent reframing in environmental decision-making. Geoforum. 2013;47:167-177.

Author(s) from Durham


In this paper we employ rhetoric culture theory, and a case study of upland channel truncation in the UK, to explore the nuanced processes of negotiation associated with environmental decision-making. In contrast to much of the literature on rhetoric in environmental management, which focuses on the means by which decisions are communicated and justified to an external audience, we focus on the dynamics of interaction and persuasion in and amongst a small group of decision-makers, and how, despite initial misgivings and conflict, they arrived at a decision consensus. We reflect on the importance of the rhetorical situation as a determinant of action and demonstrate how antagonisms were caused by competing moral notions of environmental restoration. We show that consensus was finally achieved through a process of divergent reframing, as individuals reframed the problem according to their own prior values. The outcome, therefore, was a consensus of action but a divergence of opinion, which sheds new light on the role of reframing in environmental management. Finally, we argue for a better understanding of how nuanced interactional processes influence not only small-scale interventions, but all environmental decision processes.