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The contribution of sense of place to social-ecological systems research: a review and research agenda
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Ecology
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-135274OAI: diva2:1044085
Available from: 2016-11-02 Created: 2016-11-02 Last updated: 2016-11-02Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Sense of place and culture in the landscape of home: Understanding social-ecological dynamics on the Wild Coast, South Africa
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sense of place and culture in the landscape of home: Understanding social-ecological dynamics on the Wild Coast, South Africa
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Development for sustainable poverty alleviation requires engagement with the values and cultural frames that enable or constrain communities to steward ecosystems and maintain their capacity to support human well-being. Rooted in a social-ecological systems (SES) perspective, this thesis explores the concept of sense of place to understand how emotional and cultural connections to place mediate human responses to change and influence interventions for development. Sense of place is both the attachments to place, as well as the descriptive meanings to which one is attached. Paper I presents an approach and agenda for studying sense of place in SES that emphasizes place attachment and meaning underlying stewardship actions and responses to change.

This is empirically explored through a case study on the Wild Coast, South Africa - an area with multiple contested meanings. In this former Bantustan (an area set aside for black South Africans), Apartheid created interdependence between small-holder agriculture and labour migration, where rural homesteads relied on remittances from migrant household members. Today, the contribution of agriculture to livelihoods has declined and many households rely on income from social grants. Interacting social and ecological factors in this region have resulted in social-ecological trap conditions and circular migration continues to be the pattern.

Community conservation and ecotourism is one strategy for local socio-economic development. Papers II and III explore community tensions around a proposed nature reserve declaration. In Paper II, a focus on the meanings of locally-defined ecotopes (e.g. forest and abandoned fields) illuminates the interpretations of underlying social-ecological processes. Paper III examines the use of place meanings in narratives of change to show tensions in the discourse of win-win conservation. The stalling of this particular intervention indicates the importance of engaging with multiple meanings of place and the cultural importance of nature.

Papers IV and V focus on declining agriculture and continued labour migration. From a theoretical model of people’s abilities, desires and opportunities, Paper IV develops a typology of responses that may contribute to maintaining or resolving social-ecological traps. For this case study, the model identifies the mismatch between i) cultural expectations that frame the desire to farm, and ii) the decline in opportunities for off-farm income to support agriculture. Paper V demonstrates that these expectations are expressed in the idea of emakhaya (the rural landscape of home) as well as reinforced through cultural rituals. The paper identifies a place-based social contract between the living and the ancestors that helps to maintain circular migration and agricultural practices. This suggests that sense of place contributes to system inertia but may also offer opportunities for stewardship.

Sense of place is socially constructed as well as produced through experience in ecosystems, and thus constitutes an emergent property of SES. The thesis demonstrates the use of participatory methods to produce an inclusive understanding of place and SES dynamics. The application of place meanings through these methods facilitates critical engagement with imposed interventions. Finally, the thesis shows that sense of place and culture are key for understanding inertia in SES and the capacity for transformation towards stewardship.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, 2016. 70 p.
agricultural abandonment, circular migration, community lands, Eastern Cape, narratives, place attachment, place meaning, photovoice, stewardship, Transkei, win-win conservation
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-135280 (URN)978-91-7649-547-6 (ISBN)978-91-7649-548-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-12-08, Vivi Täckholmsalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 09:30 (English)

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript. Paper 2: Manuscript. Paper 3: Manuscript. Paper 5: Manuscript.

Available from: 2016-11-15 Created: 2016-11-02 Last updated: 2016-11-17Bibliographically approved

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Masterson, VanessaEnqvist, JohanTengö, MariaGiusti, MatteoSvedin, Uno
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