Inderscience Publishers

Multifunctionality: epistemic diversity and concept oriented research clusters

This paper provides a mapping of the different uses of the word multifunctionality. To explore the diversity of meanings and interpretations, a comparative analysis was conducted through five national case studies in France, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Switzerland. The analysis conducted at national level makes it possible to identify eight Concept Oriented Research Clusters (CORCs), based on a relative homogeneity in the research practices, in the research questions addressed, in the concepts used or discussed by scientists to lead their work and in the scientific disciplines, the stream of thought or possibly the epistemic community researchers belong to. The classification helps in understanding how the term Multifuctionality (MF) is used by different advocates around a variety of conceptualisations, political context or normative perspectives. It also helps in looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the word for tackling different issues. Highlighting this diversity might contribute to the consolidation of research and to gain credibility facing the political debates. Because of what it can bring into analysis, the authors recommend to use it for the design of an analytical framework to look at sustainability, and to leave the conception of MF as a goal to the political spheres.

Keywords: agricultural multifunctionality, Europe, sustainability, sustainable development, multifunctionality concept, clusters, epistemic, France, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, multifunctional agriculture

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