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Adaptive Institutions? Peasant institutions and natural models facing climatic and economic changes in the Colombian Andes

Feola, G. (2017) Adaptive Institutions? Peasant institutions and natural models facing climatic and economic changes in the Colombian Andes. Journal of Rural Studies, 49. pp. 117-127. ISSN 0743-0167

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2016.10.007


In the Colombian Andes, peasants have co-evolved with their environment for centuries, but it is uncertain whether traditional informal institutions and natural models are adapting to current and possibly unprecedented economic and climatic disturbances. This study investigated institutional adaptation and the social mechanisms of institutional change or continuity among peasants in the Eastern Andean Cordillera. The research was informed by evolutionary theories of institutional change and based on a qualitative approach that included data collected through a focus group, oral histories, key informant interviews and observations. This study suggests that reciprocal work exchanges, festivities and gender-based divisions of roles have been disused or changed due to economic pressures, but that most informal institutions have persisted due to selective outmigration, conformist intergenerational transmission, and practices of everyday resistance. The natural model of vital energy and the traditional peasant ethos represents a 'social attractor' that has influenced institutional continuity. This study highlights tensions between resilience, cultural diversity, and transformation that are important in many other marginal rural locations in the Andes. Future research should further explore first, under what conditions institutional adaptation is observed and when it is related to increased resilience, and, second, how transformability, social-ecological resilience and cultural diversity are related.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Walker Institute
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:68365


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