Schouwenburg, H., MA

Nature’s Diplomats: Ecological Experts and the Conservation Policy of International Organisations, 1980-2000

History Department
FAculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Maastricht University

Supervisor(s): Prof. E. Homburg (promotor and Dr R. de Bont (co-promotor)


After a brief trip into the world of Fine Art and Design at Academie Minerva (Groningen), Hans Schouwenburg (1985) studied History, with minors in Art History and Philosophy, at Utrecht University. He continued his intellectual journey via a research MA in (Cultural) History, where he specialized in History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities, and an exchange program to the Center for Gender and Women’s Studies at Lancaster University (UK). In his MA-thesis, Hans tried to apply ‘new materialism’ to University History in order to solve some of the problems with which the study of history wrestles after postmodernism and the cultural turn. This project surprisingly consisted of a case-study of student toilet graffiti at Utrecht’s University Library.


Literature on international organizations suggests that scientific experts can provide ‘objective’ advice because they are drawing on universal knowledge claims. Via a case study of the role that ecological experts played in shaping the conservation policy of international organizations, this project will examine these assumptions. More specifically, the project will investigate (1) how ecologists have combined the role of neutral expert with the explicit advocacy of nature protection; and (2) how the local context in which these ecologists worked influenced the ideas, approaches and values they defended at the international level.
By building a proposographical database, I will first investigate which ecological experts were involved in international organizations like WWF, IUCN, UNEP, EU and UN between 1980 and 2000. Secondly, I will conduct discourse analysis of the argumentative strategies that these experts drew upon.


Hans Schouwenburg (2012) ‘Een bronnenprobleem: middeleeuwse geschiedschrijving en de vele gedaanten van de ketter Leutard’, Madoc: Tijdschrift over de Middeleeuwen 26.1, 12-20.