When Culture Materializes: Societal Dynamics in Resilience of Social-Ecological Systems in the Case of Conch Management on Abaco, The Bahamas


The concept of resilience has greatly contributed to the scientific discussion on human–nature interactions by analysing the dynamics, relationships and feedbacks between society and the natural environment at different levels. In this paper, we analyse how culture and societal dynamics influence those connections and, at the same time, have the potential to eventually hinder or foster social-ecological resilience. In order to do so, we take the example of a natural element which is also a cultural icon: the Conch (pronounced ‘konk’). Conch is a marine mollusc with significant social and cultural value for the islands’ society of The Bahamas. In the last decade, a decline in several Conch stocks has been documented, calling for an urgent sustainable management strategy. Nevertheless, only little efforts are happening. This case study offers an innovative understanding of resilience by introducing an aspect which is too often overseen: the role of culture in shaping social-ecological resilience. In this case study, the role of culture proved to be crucial as the cultural significance and embeddedness of Conch has made the management process challenging. But at the same time, culture can be used as a positive impulse towards adaptive management and as a starting point for sustainability. When culture materializes, it affects not only societal dynamics but also the vulnerability and the resilience process of the entire social-ecological system.
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