2nd UF Water Institute Symposium Abstract

Submitter's Name Jennifer Arnold
Session Name Poster Session: Human Dimensions of Water Sustainability 1
Category Human dimensions of water sustainability
Poster Number 101
Author(s) Jennifer Arnold,  The University of Florida School of Natural Resources and the Environment
  Karen Kainer,  The University of Florida, School of Forest Resources and Conservation
  Mirka Koro-Ljungberg, The University of Florida, School of Educational Psychology
  Jon Dain, The University of Florida, Center for Latin American Studies
  Examining the social dynamics of conflict and collaboration: A critical analysis of discourse surrounding sustainable riparian management in the southwestern US
  In an attempt to reduce riparian conflicts on a National Forest in northern Arizona, a series of workshops were professionally facilitated to encourage discussion of riparian issues among diverse stakeholders, including ranchers and agency staff. Underlying this collaborative approach to natural resource management is the concept of social learning, which explains that individuals with alternative worldviews can engage in dialog to learn from each others’ differences and constructively manage conflicts to arrive at mutually acceptable, innovative solutions to complex socio-ecological problems. Alternative worldviews and their associated language and culture are referred to as social discourses. As conflicts become entrenched, opposing social discourses may become more distinct, even mutually exclusive, inhibiting learning and dialog, whereas constructively managed conflicts may contribute to the development of overlapping or hybrid social discourses that encourage dialog. This study uses critical discourse analysis, which combines ethnography and qualitative analysis of “language in use,” to examine how workshop participants use language, including different forms of dialog and monolog, to manage social relations that contribute to conflict and/or collaboration. Preliminary findings indicate that despite the outward appearance of a diversity of stakeholders at the workshops and swift pronouncements of “successful collaboration” by workshop organizers, workshops reinforced divisions between opposing social discourses on riparian issues, identified as “managed landscapes” and “resource protection.” Workshop organizers, facilitators, and participants primarily supported the “managed landscapes” discourse with limited space given to the “resource protection” discourse indicating that the workshops served more as a force for coalition building within the “managed landscapes” discourse than for collaborative conservation or conflict resolution. These findings were presented to workshop organizers to encourage critical awareness of their use of discourse as they plan future collaborative activities. This research suggests that issues of diversity and dialog must be closely considered when designing and evaluating collaborative conservation efforts.