Bridging constructive and critical approaches to ocean governance


Nathan Bennett, SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, and

Neil Ladell, PhD Candidate, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University,

Abstract: Rising concerns about the health of the oceans have led to mounting attention to planning, management and conservation of marine spaces and resources globally and in Canada. Governance refers to the processes, structures and institutions that determine who makes decisions, how decisions are made and how actions are taken. Scholars - from geography, political science, law, anthropology, history, economics, fisheries, resource management and other disciplines - have applied both constructive and critical approaches to examinations of ocean governance. For example, constructive scholars have researched the governance factors that lead to effective resource management, explored how to apply concepts of good governance to local initiatives or national policies, or sought ways to incorporate local values and norms into governance frameworks. Critical scholars, on the other hand, have examined the politics and processes underlying conservation decisions or the effects of neoliberal policies on fisheries management and fishing communities. Yet, those involved in these two trajectories of thinking about ocean governance rarely publish in the same journals or read each others scholarship - let alone being found discussing (what on the surface appear to be divergent) ideas in the same room. This leads to (yet another) “dialogue of the deaf” where important understandings and lessons learned from both ways of thinking about governance are not taken up by those in the other camp. This session seeks to bring together and promote dialogue among scholars reflecting on governance of the oceans from critical, constructive or integrative perspectives. We are particularly interested in discussions of how specific critical or constructive theory(ies) can provide insights that help to reframe or improve policy or practice.

These discussions might focus on the application of these theories to case studies and such diverse topics as:

  • Marine conservation
  • Marine spatial planning
  • Coastal zone management
  • Marine protected areas
  • Fisheries management (e.g., commercial, Aboriginal and/or recreational)
  • Small-scale fisheries
  • Maritime law and policy
  • Global oceans governance
  • Governance of maritime spaces or fisheries resources in Canada or internationally

Please send paper abstracts of no more than 200 words to Nathan Bennett ( by February 5, 2015. Please send as a Word document with a title and your affiliation and contact details. All abstracts submitted will be considered for inclusion in the session (or series of sessions) and submitted together to the CAG committee on February 15, 2015. You will also need to register for the Conference.