CfP RGS-IBG 2019: Trust in Rural Land Governance

RGS-IBG 2019 (28th – 30th August 2019, London)


Sponsor: Rural Geographers Research Group (RGRG)

Convenors: Sam Staddon, Clare Barnes, Rachel Hunt (University of Edinburgh)

Trust is at the heart of questions of rural land governance which involve interactions between actors from different sectors (the public, state, non-state and corporate), across multiple levels. Land governance arrangements are often characterised by conflicting perspectives, experiences and interests across and within these sectors, making it imperative to understand processes of establishing, maintaining or losing trust, in such arrangements. Through their ‘typology of trust’ Stern and Baird (2015) argue that trust promotes the efficacy and resilience of natural resource management institutions, however others caution against a naïve focus on promoting good governance as a way to improve trust and relationships (Grindle 2017). Increasing scrutiny of ‘street-level bureaucracy’ (Lipksy 2010) and of the practices and performances of ‘intermediary’ actors (Funder & Marani 2015, Flachs & Richards 2018) highlights the importance of understanding how trust emerges, or flounders, in everyday encounters between actors. Geographers have been challenged to question what trust doeswhere and how it works, and to what end; in part by paying attention to the ‘technologies’ of trust’, in which trust is inscribed through words, numbers, instruments, and space (Withers 2018). Feminist geographers and political ecologists point to the importance of the ir-rational, of emotions, of informal spaces and of embodied everyday encounters and practices in the building of subjectivities, of relations, and thus of trust and cooperation around land governance (Nightingale 2011, Nightingale 2013, Wynne-Jones 2017, Pickerill 2009). Such work advances a perspective attentive to the situated, relational and emergent properties of trust, along with its political, historical, social and cultural dimensions and its material and symbolic expression.

Trust, trustworthiness and distrust are of growing interest to geographers (Withers 2018), but whilst “trust is one of the most fascinating and fundamental social phenomena [it is] at the same time one of the most elusive and challenging concepts one could study” (Lyon et al. 2012 p.1). This session aims to unpack this elusive concept in relation to rural land governance, bringing together experience and insight in relation to the questions such as:

  • How does trust emerge between the range of actors present across difference sectors?
  • How is trust maintained/lost over time, and how is it expressed?
  • What factors, processes, spaces and ‘technologies’ facilitate or inhibit the building of trust?
  • What role does trust play in on-going rural land governance?
  • How might trust be actively promoted and enhanced?
  • How can trust be understood methodologically and conceptually?

We particularly welcome submissions from PhD and ECRs, and those is a variety of formats.

Please submit an abstract of around 250 words to Sam Staddon (, Clare Barnes ( and Rachel Hunt ( by 8th February. Any questions do get in touch!


  • Flachs A. & Richards P. (2018) Playing development roles: the political ecology of performance in agricultural development. Journal of Political Ecology, 25, 638-646.
  • 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, 87–106.
  • Grindle M.  (2017) Good Governance, R.I.P.: A Critique and an Alternative. Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, 30, 17-22.
  • Lipsky M. (2010) Street Level Bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services.30th Anniversary Expanded Edition. The Russell Sage Foundation: New York, NY.
  • Lyon F., Mollering G. & Saunders M.N.K. (2012) Handbook of Research Methods on Trust. Edward Elgar: Cheltenham.
  • Nightingale A. (2011) Beyond design principles: Subjectivity, emotion, and the (ir)rational commons. Society & Natural Resources, 24, 119-132.
  • Nightingale A. (2013) Fishing for nature: the politics of subjectivity and emotion in Scottish inshore fisheries management. Environment & Planning A., 45, 2362-2378.
  • Pickerill J. (2009) Finding common ground? Spaces of dialogue and the negotiation of indigenous interests in environmental campaigns in Australia. Geoforum, 40, 66-79.
  • Stern M.J. & Baird T.D. (2015) Trust ecology and the resilience of natural resource management institutions. Ecology and Society, 20, 14.
  • Withers C.W.J. (2018) Trust – in geography. Progress in Human Geography, 42, 489–508.
  • Wynne-Jones S. (2017) Understanding farmer co-operation: Exploring practices of social relatedness and emergent affects. Journal of Rural Studies, 53, 259-268.

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