Comedies of the Commons:
Experiments in Participatory and Community-Based Management

Bonnie McCay - Professor of Anthropology & Ecology, Cook College, Rutgers University

Seminar Abstract:

One definition of "comedy," as it developed in ancient Greece, is "a drama
of humans as social rather than private beings, a drama of social actions
having a frankly corrective purpose."  Participatory and community-based
fisheries management is this kind of comedy, not necessarily a laughing
matter but clearly different from the better known "tragedy of the commons,"
where people utilizing common resources are acting as private, isolated
individuals who seek to gain what they can rather than cooperative to
correct signs of trouble in the commons.  In this talk I will elaborate on
these points, focusing on the development of a more participatory and
community-based approach in fisheries management both internationally and in
North America.  I will also discuss reasons for greater attention to social
science and the fisheries in the U.S., which may have less to do with this
trend than to the "fishing communities" provision of the Magnuson-Stevens
Fishery Management Act, and the role of litigation.

Speaker Bio:

Bonnie McCay is a Professor with the Department of Human Ecology, Cook College at Rutgers  University.  Dr. McCay has been with the department since 1974.  In that time she has served in many roles including Director of the Center  for Environmental Indicators, New Jersey State Department of Environmental Protection and as Chair for the Department of Human Ecology, Cook College.  Bonnie has also been the recipient of numerous awards including such honors as “Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professorship, Rutgers University,” “The Norwegian Marshall Fund Award” for Research in Marine Conservation, and elected “Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.”  Much of Dr. McCay’s work has centered around the relationship between humans, marine resources and property rights.  She has authored, co-authored, and served as editor for numerous books the most recent being “Community, Market and State on the North Atlantic Rim: Challenges to Modernity in the Fisheries” in 1998.


McCay, Bonnie J. 2001 .  "Community-Based and Cooperative Solutions to the
'Fishermen's Problem' in the Americas," pp. 175-194 in Protecting the
Commons: A Framework for Resource Management in the Americas, edited by
Joanna Burger, Elinor Ostrom, Richard B. Norgaard, David Policansky, and
Bernard D. Goldstein. Washington, D.C.: Island Press

_________. 2000.  "Property Rights, The Commons, and Natural Resource
Management," Pp. 67-82 In Property Rights, Economics, and the Environment,
edited by Michael D. Kaplowitz. Stamford, CT: JAI Press.

_________ and Svein Jentoft . 1998. "Market or Community Failure? Critical
Perspectives on Common Property Research," Human Organization 57(1): 21-29.

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