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Bricolage practices in local forestry

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Jessica de Koning and Charlotte Benneker, 2013, In: Arts, B., Behagel, J., Bommel, S. van, Koning, J. de, Turnhout, E. Forest and nature governance: a practice based approach. Dordrecht: Springer.

Academics and policy makers often analyse the role of institutions in terms of an institutional logic that assumes that designed institutions can effectively shape the (rational) behaviour of actors. In turn, this institutional approach assumes that local actors will automatically embrace new institutions and adapt their behaviour accordingly. However, research at the grassroots level reveals a different story. In this chapter, we show how the introduction of regulations and norms on local forestry triggers a chain of different, often unexpected, responses from local actors. The chapter addresses the processes by which local actors respond to externally imposed institutional arrangements in terms of a logic of practice. It uses the concept of bricolage to analyse forest use practices on the ground that result from the reshaping and combining of different institutional elements. The chapter draws on examples from the global South to show that local actors creatively construct a patchwork of institutions in which old institutions are recombined with the new and in which it becomes clear that institutions in fact do not directly influence behaviour but rather emerge in practices of bricolage directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously. It concludes by stating that introduced institutions do not easily steer human behaviour. A much more important determinant of behaviour is the local logic of practice of local actors. The impact of introduced institutions on local forestry therefore greatly depends on how much they relate to an existing logic of practice.