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Resilience Pivots: Stability and Identity in a Social-Ecological-Cultural System

Stephanie J. Rotarangi, University of Otago
Janet Stephenson, University of Otago


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How is cultural resilience achieved in the face of significant social and ecological change? Is resilience compatible with changed structures, functions, and feedbacks as long as identity is maintained? The concept of cultural resilience has been less explored than its older siblings ecological resilience, social resilience, and social-ecological resilience. We seek to redress the balance, drawing from resilience thinking to examine how a New Zealand Māori tribal group of landowners retained strong cultural identity and connectedness to their land despite enduring significant changes in land use, economy, tenure, and governance. The landowners negotiated radical transformations in the ecology and land use of their home lands on terms that supported matters of cultural importance. The key resilience concepts of adaptation and transformation were helpful in analyzing the trajectory of change, but fell short of representing the elements of stability that supported the cultural resilience of the landowners. The concept of resilience pivots was designed to address this conceptual gap, and to offer another heuristic to resilience thinking by focusing on stability rather than change. Resilience pivots are those elements of a resilient system that remain stable despite adaptation or even transformation of other elements of that system, and in doing so support the maintenance of the systemís distinctive identity.

Key words

cultural resilience; ecological resilience; forestry; identity; New Zealand Maori; resilience; social resilience; stability

Copyright © 2014 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