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A Synthesis of Current Approaches to Traps Is Useful But Needs Rethinking for Indigenous Disadvantage and Poverty Research

Yiheyis T Maru, CSIRO
Cameron S Fletcher, CSIRO
Vanessa H Chewings, CSIRO


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Indigenous disadvantage and poverty have persisted and are set to continue into the future. Although a large amount of work describes the extent and nature of indigenous disadvantage and poverty, there is little evidence-based systems understanding of the mechanisms that keep many indigenous people in their current dire state. In such a vacuum, policy makers are left to make assumptions about the causal mechanisms. The persistence of inequality and poverty suffered by indigenous people is broadly consistent with the existence of dynamical traps as described in both the resilience and development literature. We reviewed and synthesized these bodies of literature on traps and found that although they give a good lead to a systemic and parsimonious way of exploring traps, the mechanisms suggested need significant rethinking for the indigenous context. Specifically, we recommend extending the concept of traps to encompass the possibility that they are highly resilient but undesirable states, in contrast to current notions of traps as low resilience states. We also highlight the need for close scrutiny of the boundaries of indigenous systems because of the historically public nature of indigenous lives as well as the possible conjoint existence and causal linkage between poverty- and rigidity-traps in the indigenous context.

Key words

developments, indigenous disadvantage, poverty traps, resilience, rigidity traps

Copyright © 2012 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes 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