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Negotiating social-ecological fit through knowledge practice
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
2015 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Adaptive governance and management (AG and AM) have been proposed to address the “problem of fit” between ecosystems and governance systems. AG and AM are intended to reconfigure the relations between knowledge and action through, for instance, experimentation, collaboration and monitoring, to enhance social-ecological feedbacks. However, apparent gaps have emerged between the theory of AG and AM, and the ability to enact them in practice. These gaps have developed, at least in part, because descriptions of and prescriptions for the ‘doing’ of AG and AM have rarely been situated in the context of negotiations over the production, mobilization and circulation of knowledge. This thesis addresses this lacuna by exploring how three knowledge practices – legal adjudication, scientific monitoring, and scientific narratives – negotiate social-ecological fit in a range of governance contexts and scales. Paper I examines the proposed ‘misfit’ between AG and the law in the context of environmental cases in the European Court of Human Rights. We find that adjudication in the Court frames deliberation of environmental change and human dignity in terms of the interplay between individual rights, public interests and state responsibilities. This practice enhances AG by facilitating the interaction of different ways of knowing the environment, supporting AM in member states in the context of public participation, and enhancing polycentricity at the European scale. Paper II addresses the apparent ‘gap’ between the theory and practice of AM by exploring the enactment of an ecological monitoring programme in an Australian land management organization. We find that knowledge in the programme is produced from emergent translations made between scientific logics prioritising experimentation and learning, public logics emphasizing accountability and legitimacy, and corporate logics demanding efficiency, effectiveness and organizational performance. Paper III explores ‘sensemaking’ – proposed as a way to enhance social-ecological fit by mobilizing actors, uniting networks and communities of practice, and inspiring environmental action on particular issues – in relation to the concept of ‘invasive alien species’ (‘IAS’) in South Africa. We analyse ‘IAS’ as a narrative, tracking it through governance realms of science, law, policy and media, and suggest how and why the ‘IAS’ narrative has been so predominant. We use the ‘IAS’ example to illustrate the complexities of meaning in sensemaking narratives, and highlight the ways in which certain narratives – despite best intentions – can also preponderate unproductive, potentially maladaptive ways of understanding and engaging with complex social-ecological change. In summary, this thesis recasts the pursuit of social-ecological fit as a complex onto-epistemic process, where knowledge about ecosystems and governance systems is produced, contested and transformed through material and conceptual practices. The thesis brings together AG and AM scholarship with deliberative, reflexive and decentered governance literatures, which helps to untangle the relationships between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’ and paves the way for performative accounts of AG and AM ‘in action.’

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2015. , 100 p.
Keyword [en]
Knowledge practice; adaptive governance; adaptive management; social-ecological systems; problem of fit; performative; narrative
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-117837ISBN: 978-91-7649-216-1OAI: diva2:816688
2015-06-05, Room 239, Stockholm Resilience Centre, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2015-06-04 Created: 2015-06-03 Last updated: 2015-06-04Bibliographically approved

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