Locating Power in Ostrom’s Design Principles: Watershed Management in India and the United States

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© 2020 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Ostrom’s design principles are considered to characterize robust institutions for managing common-pool resources. However, the design principles can conceal and perpetuate power asymmetries to limit socially just outcomes, even while improving environmental outcomes. This study integrates theories on power with Ostrom’s design principles to examine power dynamics in watershed management groups in India and the United States through case study methods. Results reveal that power does not always manifest itself in an environment of injustice, but processes of domination and empowerment occur concurrently. Negative aspects of power are not manifested through overt conflict, but through non-participation, inaction, and silence of non-dominant actors. This is not to say that non-dominant actors are devoid of agency, as they may respond to domination through solidarities and building capabilities. Paying attention to these interdependencies can shed light on the potential for collective action for achieving not only environmentally sustainable but also socially just outcomes.

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Society and Natural Resources



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