North America: Praneeta Mudaliar on “Crafting a Just and Sustainable Future: Insights from Synergizing Power Dynamics and Institutional Analysis”

Praneeta Mudaliar is an Assistant Professor of Natural Resources Policy and Stewardship at the University of Toronto Mississauga in Canada. Previously, she held the position of Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Ithaca College, New York. Through case study methods, her academic focus revolves around the examination of power dynamics, socio-cultural inequalities, and actor interactions in the governance of shared resources. Praneeta has conducted cross-national investigations on power dynamics in community-based watershed management in the United States and India, as well as polycentric fisheries governance in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Her present research endeavors involve exploring youth-led commoning for care and climate justice in Canada.

The discourse on power stands as a focal point among commons scholars, particularly in the context of informing endeavors to shape a more just and sustainable future. However, critiques of commons theory contend that institutional analysis, by its focus on methodological individualism, tends to overlook social relations of power. It is accused of simplifying intricate, politically charged power dynamics into issues of institutional design.

Contrary to this perspective, I posit that institutional analysis holds a unique vantage point for generating innovative theoretical and empirical insights on the role of power dynamics in commons governance. In this talk, I will highlight recent strides in institutional analysis that delve into the nuanced power dynamics among resource users to uncover concealed agendas and motivations that drive resource management decisions. I will advocate for synergies between institutional analysis and feminist political ecology to capture the interactions between power dynamics and institutions. A pivotal aspect of my discussion will center on the need to examine uncoordinated strategies or micro-politics, often termed “everyday politics.” Delving into the realm of everyday politics adds a pragmatic dimension to our understanding of commons governance. In scrutinizing the uncoordinated strategies that emerge organically among resource users, unmediated by institutions, we gain a granular understanding of how decisions are made, rules are interpreted, and norms are established for accessing and using the commons. By unraveling the complexities of power relations and exploring the intricate interplay between institutions and everyday politics, this talk seeks to inform strategies aimed at creating, nurturing, and maintaining the commons for a more just and sustainable future.