Governance and Land Management Fires Understanding Objects of Governance as Expressing an Ethics of Dissensus

lcj-16Helen Verran

LCJ: Special Edition: Governance, 15, pp. 52-59

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Verrna, H. (2015). Governance and Land Management Fires Understanding Objects of Governance as Expressing an Ethics of Dissensus. Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts [Special Issue: Governance], 15, 52-59. DOI:



Having worked in science studies for many years, objects of knowledge are my usual focus of analysis. In particular in the past I have puzzled about how the objects that scientists know, and objects that practitioners of Aboriginal Australian knowledge traditions know, might be connected and separated. One example of that analytic work involved analysing the objects of knowledge involved as scientists and Aboriginal landowners engaged with each other around land management firing (Verran, 2002a). 

In 2014 I find that the character of the entity that is my focus of analysis must change. Epistemic practices as such, are no longer of much interest to those who fund research in Australia. Nowadays it is objects of governance that are of interest. Of course objects of governance come to life as knowable in knowledge practices, but it is not their capacity to constitute enough certainty about the world known that matters nowadays. It is their role in allowing transparent organisational accountability that now matters. And that shift is accompanied by changed institutional arrangements. Research associated with services provision is now largely the order of the day in Australian universities. Thus it is that, near the end of my career, I find myself working in ‘GroundUP,’ a research group and a services provider located in a policy research unit in Charles Darwin University (see Charles Darwin University’s webpage www. No longer a field worker, I am a story-teller who worries at coming up with some useful naming’s of what we are doing in our ground-up policy research and services delivery projects.


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