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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 34-47

Governing uncertainty: Resilience, dwelling, and flexible resource management in Oceania

Department of Anthropology, San Diego State University, San Diego, USA

Correspondence Address:
Matthew Lauer
Department of Anthropology, San Diego State University, San Diego
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.182802

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This article examines the flexible, customary land and sea tenure practices on a small island in Melanesia. I use the dwelling concept to analyse how governance practices on the island function during three different kinds of social-ecological change: 1) rapid demographic expansion; 2) a destructive tsunami; and 3) several recent development projects. In contrast to conventional resilience approaches, the dwelling concept draws attention to the immediate experience and practical application of environmental management. Results show that flexible resource governance is not based on a set of pre-determined rules, but instead, it is a socially-situated, experiential activity involving tension, conflict, and contestation as people negotiate access to land and sea resources. I argue that a dwelling perspective enhances resilience-focused research by providing a broader, non-dichotomising nature-culture analytical lens and by expanding the scope of inquiry to include power dynamics and contestation between social groups, processes that dominate the everyday experience of flexible ecosystem management governance but tend to be overlooked in most resilience research. With its emphasis on the complexity, contingency, and asymmetry of interacting social, economic, political, and ecological processes the dwelling approach complements 'new ecology', the epistemological shift that help inspire resilience research.

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