The University of Arizona

"Gentlemen-type rules" and "back room deals" in public participation: natural resource management and a fractured state in North Carolina

Rebecca McCoy, Nora Haenn


This paper examines the political ecology of a participatory environmental management setting. It argues the failure of participatory forums to meet their goals reveals more generalized features of the state, namely its fractured quality and inconsistent actions. Thus, rather than premise questions of how participatory forums might be more effective, researchers should first consider what cleavages and inconsistencies in the state that participatory forums reveal. How do the various actors involved negotiate these cleavages and inconsistencies? The paper explores disputes surrounding the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina, USA. The argument centers on whether or not off-road vehicles might access the Seashore. Parties to the dispute have lobbied elected representatives, participated in a public forum, enacted litigation, and carried out campaigns of public admonishment. While using one part of the state to counteract the actions of another, supporters of off-road vehicles proffer a moral assessment which contrasts "gentlemen-type rules" with "backroom deals". The paper argues this rhetoric acts as a kind of cultural script that people use to corral heterogeneous state institutions into a single discursive framework that premises the kind of face-to-face relations where they are more likely to achieve their goals.

Keywords: conservation; state formation; environmentality; environmental governance 

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