CfP POLLEN18: How do green interventions work through people?

How do green interventions work through people?

Panel proposal

POLLEN Biennial Conference, 20-22 June 2018, Oslo, Norway

Organisers:  Frances Cleaver (University of Sheffield); Mikkel Funder, (Danish Institute for International Studies)

Abstract deadline: Please send a 300 word abstract by December 6th 2017

Contact: &

 Panel theme:

  • How do local state and community representatives interact to co-produce green interventions?
  • How do they negotiate their complex intermediary positions and what are the effects for practices and institutions?
  • How much room for manoeuvre do different actors have to adapt or reshape green interventions?
  • How do new conceptual insights and findings help us to understand the role of actors in the green interventions?

Global green discourses materialize in local settings through a variety of actors and practices. This panel will revisit a classic relationship – that between state and community – to examine how the everyday interaction of government practitioners and community members shapes the evolution and nature of green interventions on the ground, and what practices and institutions emerge from this.

Past work has highlighted the discursive and territorializing strategies of the state in development, as it seeks to make people and natural resources governable (Scott, 1998). Alongside this, a large body of literature has highlighted and examined the ways in which communities seek to oppose and resist such domination. In recent years there has however been growing attention to the ways in which government staff, donors, NGOs and community members co-produce (green) interventions, including the practices of assemblage that connect actors, knowledges and institutions in such interventions (Li, 2007).

At the same time, other strands of research are highlighting how state practitioners often take on more pragmatic and creative roles in everyday governance than is sometimes assumed. This includes the “street level bureaucrats” (Lipsky, 2010) who represent the central state in local settings, i.e. the civil servants and technical staff who work in local state agencies within agriculture, water, forestry, environment, community development etc. (Blundo & Glasman, 2013). Tasked with the implementation of policies and programmes in practice, their position offers opportunities for discretion and the exercise of semi-autonomous “practical norms” (De Herdt & de Sardan, 2015), and often require compromise and collaboration if they are to operate and maintain legitimacy (Funder & Marani, 2015). This is not least so in settings where they face competition from other actors – such as CBOs, local governments, customary authorities and the private sector – over authority, resource control and even “stateness” itself (Lund, 2006).

Likewise, community members engage the state and external interventions in multi-facetted ways. This is not limited to withdrawal or resistance, but often includes active efforts to engage and re-shape green programmes and discourses as they evolve locally. A growing body of literature shows how this applies not only to specific projects and programmes, but also to institutions more broadly through processes of institutional bricolage in which practices, rules and norms are pieced together from a variety of sources and domains, leading to unique local outcomes (Cleaver, 2012). In these processes, local elites and gatekeepers occupy important but also complex positions that, again, may require pragmatic approaches as they seek to balance their roles vis-a-vis fellow community members, state representatives and other actors in everyday interface situations (Long, 2003).

The panel invites papers which re-engage with earlier conceptual work on these issues and/or develops new insights and findings specific to green interventions.

Please send a 300 word abstract and brief bio to Frances Cleaver ( and Mikkel Funder ( by December 6th, 2017.


Blundo, G., & Glasman, J. (2013). Introduction: Bureaucrats in Uniform. Sociologus, 63, 1-9.

Cleaver, F. (2012). Development through bricolage : rethinking institutions for natural resource management. London: Earthscan.

De Herdt, T., & de Sardan, J.-P. O. (2015). Real governance and practical norms in Sub-Saharan Africa: the game of the rules (Vol. 7): Routledge.

Funder, M., & Marani, M. (2015). Local bureaucrats as bricoleurs. The everyday implementation practices of county environment officers in rural Kenya. International Journal of the Commons, 9(1).

Li, T. M. (2007). Practices of assemblage and community forest management. Economy and Society, 36(2), 263-293. doi: 10.1080/03085140701254308

Lipsky, M. (2010). Street-level bureaucracy : dilemmas of the individual in public services ([Expanded ed.]. ed.). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Long, N. (2003). Development sociology: actor perspectives: Routledge.

Lund, C. (2006). Twilight institutions: Public authority and local politics in Africa. Development and Change, 37(4), 685-705. doi: DOI 10.1111/j.1467-7660.2006.00497.x

Scott, J. C. (1998). Seeing like a state: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed: Yale University Press.


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