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“Institutional Shopping” for natural resource management in a protected area and indigenous territory in the Bolivian Amazon


Wartmann, Flurina M; Haller, Tobias; Backhaus, Norman (2016). “Institutional Shopping” for natural resource management in a protected area and indigenous territory in the Bolivian Amazon. Human Organization, 75(3):218-229.

Abstract

Focusing on an overlapping protected area and indigenous territory in the Bolivian Amazon, this article discusses how indigenous people continue to negotiate access to natural resources. Using the theoretical framework of New Institutionalism, ethnographic data from participatory observations, and interviews with Takana indigenous resource users and park management staff, we identified four phases of institutional change. We argue that under the current institutionally pluralistic setting in the overlapping area, indigenous users apply “institutional shopping” to choose, according to their power and knowledge, the most advantageous institutional framework in a situation. Indigenous users strategically employed arguments of conservation, indigeneity, or longterm occupation to legitimize their claims based on the chosen institution. Our results highlight the importance of ideologies and bargaining power in shaping the interaction of individuals and institutions. As a potential application of our research to practice, we suggest that rather than seeing institutional pluralism solely as a threat to successful resource management, the strengths of different frameworks may be combined to build robust institutions from the bottom up that are adapted to the local context. This requires taking into account local informal institutions, such as cultural values and beliefs, and integrating them with conservation priorities through cross-cultural participatory planning.

Abstract

Focusing on an overlapping protected area and indigenous territory in the Bolivian Amazon, this article discusses how indigenous people continue to negotiate access to natural resources. Using the theoretical framework of New Institutionalism, ethnographic data from participatory observations, and interviews with Takana indigenous resource users and park management staff, we identified four phases of institutional change. We argue that under the current institutionally pluralistic setting in the overlapping area, indigenous users apply “institutional shopping” to choose, according to their power and knowledge, the most advantageous institutional framework in a situation. Indigenous users strategically employed arguments of conservation, indigeneity, or longterm occupation to legitimize their claims based on the chosen institution. Our results highlight the importance of ideologies and bargaining power in shaping the interaction of individuals and institutions. As a potential application of our research to practice, we suggest that rather than seeing institutional pluralism solely as a threat to successful resource management, the strengths of different frameworks may be combined to build robust institutions from the bottom up that are adapted to the local context. This requires taking into account local informal institutions, such as cultural values and beliefs, and integrating them with conservation priorities through cross-cultural participatory planning.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:02 Sep 2016 12:29
Last Modified:02 Sep 2016 12:31
Publisher:Society for Applied Anthropology
ISSN:0018-7259
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.17730/1938-3525-75.3.218

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