Towards representative resilience: the power of culture to foster local resource representation

S. Davis*, L. Horlings, T. Van Dijk, H. Rau

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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Community resilience policies continue to grow in popularity as a strategy to prepare for the local impact of forecasted environmental uncertainty, however, criticisms of community resilience discourse remain. This paper takes forward these criticisms, specifically addressing the issue of representative power over key natural resources, using Gaventa’s [Gaventa, J. 2006. “Finding the Spaces for Change: A Power Analysis.” IDS Bulletin 37 (6): 23–33] power cube as a conceptual framework to examine power relations. Our objective is to advance current critical community resilience literature from acknowledging local power relations as a component of any community resilience strategy to situating the devolvement of representative power over key natural resources as a mandatory pre-requisite before any community can be considered "resilient". The paper adopts a case study approach and draws on a grassroots-led resilience project in the Scottish Highlands that utilises traditional land practices and local cultural history to educate people on land sustainability. We explore the potential of the project to construct deeper cultural and historical understandings of local environments and whether projects like these can serve an additional purpose of motivating people to pursue greater influence in land decisions. The analysis reveals emerging links between power, culture and land representation that could foster new forms of local resilience. However, perceptions of systemic barriers such as insecure land tenancies and democratic deficits stymied the potential of this raised motivation. As normative community resilience strategies continue to devolve responsibility over resources without devolving power, a new resilient settlement is required to confront an environmentally uncertain future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1564-1585
Number of pages22
JournalLocal Environment
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Community resilience
  • culture
  • land use
  • power
  • representation
  • Scotland
  • sustainability

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