Contested resources: Challenges to the governance of natural resources in Southern Africa
Benjaminsen, Tor Arve
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In this keynote address I wish to identify some important ideas and conclusions arising out of recent analyses of theory and practice on natural resource management. I use these in a preliminary attempt to argue that the centrality of power and meaning in processes of ‘governing natural resources’ is not sufficiently addressed in the currently favoured approaches of ‘common property theory’. My intention is to provide some food for thought as we consider together the specific cases presented in the symposium. I am personally committed to the intersection of scholarship or theory-building with practical action, including policy. Note that I say ‘intersection’ – I do not wish to conflate the academic work of theory-building with the practical work of applying theory to policy, but I also reject their total separation as neither possible nor desirable. It is the interface of ideas and action which interests me. I am particularly interested in the way certain ideas or approaches make their way into policy design and implementation, often with no attention being paid to their theoretical premises, and how quickly they become accepted as conventional wisdoms. Equally interesting is the question of why some ideas and approaches developed by thinkers and researchers do not make their way into policy debate. Today, I shall discuss some notions that currently dominate the realm of natural resource management so effectively that they exclude others that might be more appropriate guides.