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Of Models and Meanings: Cultural Resilience in Social–Ecological Systems

Todd A. Crane, Technology and Agrarian Development, Wageningen University


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Modeling has emerged as a key technology in analysis of social–ecological systems. However, the tendency for modeling to focus on the mechanistic materiality of biophysical systems obscures the diversity of performative social behaviors and normative cultural positions of actors within the modeled system. The fact that changes in the biophysical system can be culturally constructed in different ways means that the perception and pursuit of adaptive pathways can be highly variable. Furthermore, the adoption of biophysically resilient livelihoods can occur under conditions that are subjectively experienced as the radical transformation of cultural systems. The objectives of this work are to: (1) highlight the importance of understanding the place of culture within social–ecological systems, (2) explore the tensions between empirical and normative positions in the analysis of social–ecological resilience, and (3) suggest how empirical modeling of social–ecological systems can synergistically interact with normative aspects of livelihoods and lifeways.

Key words

adaptation; agropastoralism; climate change; Mali; modeling; resilience

Copyright © 2010 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087