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Structures, actors, and interactions in the analysis of natural resource conflicts

Ton Salman, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Marjo de Theije, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Irene Vélez-Torres, School of Environmental Engineering (EIDENAR), Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia


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We propose a research approach to natural resource conflicts that includes different tempos of the developments that lead to a conflict becoming manifest. This approach can help to distinguish dimensions of the conflict and to understand the logic behind and reasons for different vocabularies currently in vogue to address these dimensions. It thus clarifies the different assertions and potentials of existing theoretical and conceptual approaches. After presenting our model, we analyze three conflict cases, in Sri Lanka/India, Suriname, and Colombia. The cases show the history and self-identification that explain indignation and distrust, as well as attitudes of taking for granted relations with other actors, namely the state and other contenders for the resources, including large-scale companies, illegal armed groups, and drug traffickers. In our text, we use “tempos” to refer to three processes that bring about three dimensions we believe to constitute conflicts over natural resources. The distinction can help to more accurately unpack the why’s and how’s of conflict development.

Key words

Colombia; conflict analysis; multitemporal model; small-scale fishery; small-scale gold mining; Sri Lanka; Suriname

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087