Perspectives, dimensions, and references that shape the notion of nature: A semiotic model based on socioecological relations
Keywords:meaning, territory, biocultural identity, cultural semiotics, land, environment
If the significance of nature is a crucial phenomenon in understanding the forms of relations societies establish with the environment, in what way is this significance built? This paper presents the results of a case study focused on exploring how the meanings of nature and socioecological relationships relate to each other in an indigenous population. The first part of the article explains the theoretical scaffolding used to collect and analyse data, based on ecological anthropology and Ogden and Richards’ semiotic scheme. The second part describes the methodological procedures and the first findings, that is, the elements and dimensions that integrate the meanings of nature and land for the inhabitants of this population. It is also explained how those meanings are built and how they are fused to local socioecological relationships in an ontological way. The findings reveal that the inhabitants of this community configure their meanings of ‘nature’ from multiple references of biological, spiritual, axiological, and cultural character, often represented by its referent ‘land’. The notion of ‘nature’ (as land) is created from subjective and social experiences with the environment and the territory, and in turn provides meaning to the biocultural identity of the population. However, historical learning, worldview, and social organization also emerge as the main structuring elements of the social meanings of nature and land.