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Stimulating a constructive dialogue with Social Sciences and Social Ecological Resilience

Five years ago a group of us, led by Samantha Stone-Jovicich (CSIRO, Australia), and including Per Olsson (Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden), Bruce Goldstein (University of Colorado Boulder, US) and Ryan Plummer (Brock University, Canada) proposed a special issue of Ecology and Society on the topic of Exploring Social-Ecological Resilience through the Lens of the Social Sciences: Contributions, Critical Reflections and Constructive Debate. We felt it was important to move beyond criticism and shift the debate to a more critical but constructive focus – and we hoped that the special feature would provide space to constructively explore divergent perspectives, tensions, and discordances – as well as a willingness to be reflexive – which we consider integral to furthering a fruitful engagement between the social sciences (and other bodies of knowledge) and social-ecological resilience research. We convened a series of panels as the Resilience 2014 conference in Montpellier, and from that brought together a set of really top class and cutting-edge papers. The papers use critical social science to explore some of the interfaces and opportunities for advancing social ecological resilience through engagement with social sciences.

Our Guest Editorial has recently been published, titled Expanding the contribution of the social sciences to social-ecological resilience research. the papers in this Special Feature stretch the ways in which the social sciences can engage with/in social-ecological resilience. They do so in two ways: by integrating long-standing social science theories, concepts and methodologies into current social-ecological resilience frameworks and concepts, and/or by bringing in theoretical lenses and approaches  – some relatively nascent and contentious even within the social sciences – that challenge resilience thinking, research, and practice. In pursuing the former, papers illustrate the potential for stronger cross-disciplinary synergies by exploring how specific bodies of social science knowledge and research practice can enrich resilience analyses. The papers that wrestle with conceptual and methodological tensions and incompatibilities highlight possible avenues for new ways of thinking about not only social-ecological resilience but also about how different disciplines and fields can enrich each other. They encourage cross-disciplinary risk-taking and ‘thinking out of the box’ and, in doing so, pave the way for creative and innovative actions needed for a more sustainable future.

In synthesising and summarising the ten fantastic papers published in the special issue our Editorial identifies insights and frontier across six broad themes:

  • Human and social dimensions of change, transitions, and transformations in the context of social-ecological systems and resilience
  • The role of human and non-human actors and agency in influencing change and resilience
  • The contribution of material and non-material cultural and social dimensions to enhancing resilience at individual, community, and system scales
  • Power relations, dynamics and inequity in resilience
  • Qualitative and participatory methodologies
  • Multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary exchange, collaboration and integration

The editorial gives a great overview of interdisciplinary social science perspectives and analysis for social ecological resilience and hopefully will encourage readers to look at the individual papers in the special feature.

With sincere and grateful thanks to co-editors and all the contributors to the special feature; it demonstrates how sometimes, great things just take a little time….

Citation: Stone-Jovicich, S., B. E. Goldstein, K. Brown, R. Plummer and P. Olsson 2018. Expanding the contribution of the social sciences to social-ecological resilience research. Ecology and Society 23 (1):41. [online here]

Special issue available here

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