Disputing the Floodplains: Institutional Change and the Politics of Resource Management in African Wetlands

By Sheridan, Michael | The International Journal of African Historical Studies, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Disputing the Floodplains: Institutional Change and the Politics of Resource Management in African Wetlands


Sheridan, Michael, The International Journal of African Historical Studies


Disputing the Floodplains: Institutional Change and the Politics of Resource Management in African Wetlands. Edited by Tobias Haller. Leiden: Brill, 2010. Pp. xviii, 452; maps, charts, photographs, bibliography, index. $112.00 paper.

Many edited volumes are patchy constellations of case studies around a central theme. This volume is refreshingly coherent and consistent, to the degree that each case study chapter discusses the same topics in the same order and format. The book is based on the work of a cohort of graduate students under editor Tobias Haller' s supervision and coordination at the University of Zurich, 2002-2005 (indeed, the volume reads at times as a condensed graduate seminar). Although the volume is narrowly focused on African wetlands, its theoretical ambition is the assertion of a general model of environmental and institutional change in postcolonial sub-Saharan Africa. The volume is inspired by Elinor Ostrom's contributions to New Institutional Economics, which center on the institutional characteristics that lead to functional common property management systems. One of the major critiques of Ostrom' s approach was that it paid insufficient attention to ideology and power, so Haller has merged this approach with a focus on bargaining power and legitimization from the work of economic anthropologist Jean Ensminger.1 The result is a historical and anthropological institutionalism that seeks to explain the course of environmental change.

This book starts from the assumption that the precolonial resource management institutions of African floodplains were not self -correcting functional systems; rather, they developed from a series of conflicts and solutions that gradually became institutionalized into social arrangement and legitimized by cultural meanings. Thus the authors collectively argue, for example, that rituals of sacrifices to various water spirits were the foundations of functional social-ecological systems, but this is not a naive functionalism self-designed for sustainability or conservation. Rather, these constellations of social practices, traditions, rituals, and beliefs served to enhance the social status of leaders and coordinate the exchanges among different social groups. Three hypotheses follow from this position. First, the authors argue that most wetlands' precolonial common property systems have collapsed and led to open-access degradation, except when the institutions provide social or economic capital to locally powerful people. The authors call this the "rent hypothesis." Second, this change occurred because the postcolonial states claimed resource management responsibility without effective institutional capacity, which meant that many cases of open access degradation result from non-local actors legitimizing their access to "national" assets as citizens in areas that had once been controlled by particular "ethnoprofessional groups. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Disputing the Floodplains: Institutional Change and the Politics of Resource Management in African Wetlands
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.