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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Pranietha Mudliar's Doctoral Scholarly Seminar

Oct 27, 2015, 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Pranietha Mudliar, PhD Candidate in Environmental Social Sciences, will present her Doctoral Scholarly Seminar, Institutions for Collective Action in Heterogeneous Communities. Her presentation will be held in 245 Kottman Hall.

Common-pool resources have been the subject of much scholarly attention in natural resources, ever since the publication of Garret Hardin’s 1968 article, ‘Tragedy of the Commons’. Hardin suggested that such resources would be destroyed or degraded because of free riding and overexploitation. However, a line of scholarship emerged demonstrating that resources that were thought to be open to all, and thus subject to overexploitation, are often held in common and can be successfully managed by communities of resource users.

The factors that are thought to contribute to successful community management include physical attributes of the resource, community attributes, and institutions such as rules, norms, and strategies crafted by the community. One critical feature that can affect a community’s ability to develop institutions for sustainable resource management is socio-cultural heterogeneity. Most scholars suggest that socio-cultural heterogeneity hinders natural resource management because it can contribute to mutual distrust, different interests, increased transaction costs, different values, and different interpretations of institutions within a community of resource users. This perspective has led to the assumption that socio-culturally homogeneous communities are much more likely to be successful at resource management. However, there is some evidence that suggests that institutions that increase social interactions and communication and distribute benefits equitably to develop trust across members can encourage natural resource management in socio-culturally heterogeneous groups.

Thus, there is a significant knowledge gap about the mechanisms through which institutions operate in socio-culturally heterogeneous groups, as well as the specific institutional features that help to overcome the problems associated with heterogeneity. In this Doctoral Scholarly Seminar, I investigate institutions in heterogeneous communities and examine the processes by which institutions address heterogeneity. I propose that particular institutional features that create equity, accountability, symbolic capital, and utilize the unique skills of members can address the problems associated with socio-cultural heterogeneity for managing natural resources. This analysis has implications for community-based natural resource management for developing institutions well matched to local circumstances to address the challenges of heterogeneity.