Your Resilience is My Vulnerability: ‘Rules in Use’ in a Local Water Conflict
This paper uses an empirical analysis of a water conflict in the German state of Brandenburg to explore diverse constructions of vulnerability to water scarcity by local stakeholders. It demonstrates how, in the absence of effective formal institutions, these constructions are getting translated into conflictual resilience strategies practiced by these stakeholders, creating situations in which “your resilience is my vulnerability”. The novel contribution of the paper to resilience research is threefold. Firstly, it illustrates how the vulnerability and resilience of a socio-ecological system—such as small catchment—are socially constructed; that is, how they are not given but rather the product of stakeholders’ perceptions of threats and suitable responses to them. Secondly, the paper emphasizes the role of institutions—both formal and informal—in framing these vulnerability constructions and resilience strategies. Particular attention is paid to the importance of informal ‘rules in use’ emerging in the wake of (formal) ‘institutional voids’ and how they work against collective solutions. Thirdly, by choosing a small-scale, commonplace dispute to study vulnerability and resilience, the paper seeks to redress the imbalance of resilience research (and policy) on dramatic disaster events by revealing the relevance of everyday vulnerabilities, which may be less eye-catching but are far more widespread.
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