Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2019

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Anthropology and Environmental Policy


Christine Beitl

Second Committee Member

Stefan Gelcich

Third Committee Member

Cynthia Isenhour

Additional Committee Members

Teresa Johnson

Heather Leslie


This dissertation uses a multi-level analysis of individuals and institutions to examine the cultural, social, and political conditions which contribute to the process of transformation to adaptive governance at the local scale. Specifically, the dissertation addresses the following questions: (1) what community-level factors affect individuals’ abilities to contribute to transformations in governance that enable adaptation to socioeconomic and environmental change? (2) why do legislative structures governing marine resources play out differently in communities’ abilities to transform governance in the Lakes Region? and (3) what underlying cultural factors explain conflict in institutional preferences for adaptive governance? This dissertation builds on critiques that the literature on governance has focused too narrowly on outcomes with less attention to interactions between individuals and institutions or the overall process of transformation. Attention to these dimensions is needed to advance understanding of governance as a process, rather than an outcome, which is influenced by diverse stakeholders and the interactions between stakeholders, existing governance structures, and the biophysical system. The objective of this dissertation is to examine the social, cultural, and political factors which may facilitate or constrain the transformation of governance at the local scale, with attention to legislative structure, shifting power dynamics, conflict, and differential access to resources. I integrate theoretical understandings of structure and agency (Giddens 1979, Radcliffe-Brown 1952, and Bourdieu 1977) and conceptualizations of friction (Tsing 2004) to situate actors and institutions in a globalized context to understand how they are affected by, interact with, and transform structures of governance in socio-ecological systems. This study addresses gaps in knowledge of how individuals may be constrained by governance structures and do not have equal opportunity to contribute to decision-making (Agrawal 2005) or how they engage with the structures to redefine power dynamics and transform governance (Cote and Nightingale 2012). I use a case study of the Lakes Region of southern Chile which experienced an environmental crisis in 2016—a harmful algal bloom—which paralyzed the region’s economy and illuminated pre-existing tensions between stakeholders. Resource users were out of work for six months and aquaculture exports of salmon were prohibited. The region depends on the globalized nature of production and export of large-scale aquaculture product, while simultaneously, many rural communities still rely on income from artisanal harvests of wild benthic resources. As this dissertation will show, the development of new ocean uses has caused conflict between stakeholder groups. But new and unpredictable environmental challenges that the Lakes Region faces, such as the harmful algal bloom in 2016, will require these diverse stakeholders to cooperate with each other to transform governance away from these separate legislative structures to collaborative, communicative adaptive governance that responds to social and ecological feedback from the system.