Challenging and Defending the Status Quo - The role of power relations for social-ecological systems transformation in MACEMP Zanzibar

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Stockholm Resilience Centre

Abstract: There is critique that Resilience theory does not adequately address issues of power in socialecological systems (SES). Yet this critique has yet to systematically review approaches used to address power in resilience studies, or outline which types of power concepts can be used to understand powers contribution to processes of social-ecological change (SES). Power is a significant factor facilitating or constraining change; but the balance may depend upon contextual circumstances. The aim of this thesis is to study how power can be usefully addressed in the practical context of achieving transformative change. The first part of the thesis considers potential gaps in resilience theory’s understanding of power; and then identifies several other relevant conceptualisations of power that can help to broaden the appreciation of the role of power in SES contexts. In the second part a power framework is applied to analyse the World Bank’s MACEMP Project, Zanzibar, which is framed as a case of non-transformation. The findings from the case-study show that in order to explain power’s effects on transformation processes, it is necessary to take account of power emanating from dominant actors, but also groups of people perceived as having little power, and even the unexpected effects of the power struggle between these two groups.

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