Understanding adaptation and transformation through indigenous practice: the case of the Guna of Panama

Resilience is emerging as a promising vehicle for improving management of social-ecological systems that can potentially lead to more sustainable arrangements between environmental and social spheres. Central to an understanding of how to support resilience is the need to understand social change and its links with adaptation and transformation. Our aim is to contribute to insights about and understanding of underlying social dynamics at play in social-ecological systems. We argue that longstanding indigenous practices provide opportunities for investigating processes of adaptation and transformation. We use in-depth analysis of adaptation and transformation through engagement in participatory action research, focusing on the role of cultural and social practices among the Guna indigenous peoples in Panama. Our findings reveal that cultural practices facilitating leadership development, personhood development, and social networking are critical for enabling both adaptation and transformation. Further, we argue that Guna ritual practice builds additional skills, such as critical self-reflection and creative innovation, that are important for supporting the deeper changes required by transformation.


Citation:

Apgar, M.J., Allen, W., Moore, K., Ataria, J. (2015)
Ecology and Society, 20(1): 45 [open access]
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