Pranietha Mudliar's Graduate Defense Seminar
Pranietha Mudliar, PhD Candidate in Environmental Social Sciences, will present Heterogeneity and Collective Action: Case Studies from the United States and India as her Graduate Defense Seminar on Thursday, June 9th, at 1:00 p.m. in 245 Kottman Hall.
Past scholarship on community-based natural resource management and common-pool resource governance has provided insights into the conditions that facilitate self-organization to improve natural resource management outcomes. While some enabling conditions are clearly important across contexts, there remains considerable uncertainty about how socio-cultural heterogeneity affects collective action in rural communities. Many scholars suggest that socio-cultural heterogeneity can prohibit collective action. However, some studies find that socio-cultural heterogeneous groups can craft institutions that allow them to address the challenges that such heterogeneity can pose. In my dissertation, I explored the relationships among socio-cultural heterogeneity, institutions, and collective action in the context of watershed management in the United States and in India. I employed a case study approach and in-depth interviews to examine the institutional arrangements and mechanisms that allow socio-culturally groups to act collectively to manage their watershed. My results suggest that socio-culturally heterogeneous communities can develop institutions that allow them to overcome any additional costs to collective action that may result from that heterogeneity. The analysis suggests that equity, accountability, symbolic capital, and capacities such as the skills that members bring to a group are key features of institutions that allow heterogeneous groups to develop good governance practices. I also explored the dynamic interactions between the contextual factors (group attributes, community attributes, and resource attributes) and institutional arrangements and how this relationship has shaped collective action in these communities. For instance, a group attribute of small size facilitated an institution of deliberative decision-making where every member contributes to decision-making. Institutions have also changed existing community attributes that prevented members from acting collectively. This study contributes to the debate about whether and in which contexts socio-cultural heterogeneity negatively affects collective action. These results further support other empirical and theoretical work that demonstrates that socio-cultural heterogeneity does not prohibit collective action in all contexts.