Anthony J. Bebbington

Clark University


Primary Section: 64, Human Environmental Sciences
Secondary Section: 53, Social and Political Sciences
Membership Type: Member (elected 2009)

Research Interests

A geographer by training, I have an abiding interest in the Andean-Amazonian region of South America: the region has been my second home and a site in which I have pursued my research interests in the factors that drive the relationships between humans and the environment under conditions of inequality and poverty. My early work on indigenous agricultural systems identified the importance of local organizational forms and institutions in determining patterns of technological change and land use. While that work was at a community scale, our subsequent work suggested that meso-scale patterns of agrarian change were influenced by the nature and quality of relationships between state and civil society organizations (especially producer organizations, social movements and nongovernmental organizations). This suggested important policy levers for intervening in human-environmental relations. My recent work considers human-environment relationships when natural resource based growth (mining, oil, gas etc.), precedes institutional innovation to regulate this resource extraction. This research suggests that, even under such adverse circumstances sustainability enhancing institutions can be created. One condition for this is the presence of social conflict that leads to demands for institutional change; the other is the presence of actors that can translate this conflict into specific institutional innovations. Conflict, adequately brokered, can offset asymmetries of power and allow institutional change. Even in conflictive situations, institutions that allow local ownership can progress and be more effective than centrally imposed institutions that are mostly designed to foster economic growth.

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