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Cultural Models and Shoreline Social Conflict

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Along the coast we witness property conflicts that would seem strange at inland locations. To understand why property conflicts seem particularly common and intense along shorelines, one must appreciate that property is enacted by real people in specific places. The successful enactment of property requires sufficiently shared expectations for behavior. Expectations are formed by consulting cultural models, which are inter-subjectively shared cognitive tools. This article describes seven cultural models of property that can play a role in the enactment of property along the shoreline. These are the sovereignty, community, landscape, ecology, commodity, moral order, and productivity models. A focus on cultural models shows how property conflicts can occur when models are not adequately grounded in real world circumstances, when a cultural model is not shared, or when multiple cultural models conflict. This article argues that all three of these types of failures are more likely to occur along shorelines than with inland property. Finally, even though cultural models of property are not hierarchical, this article argues that too much emphasis is currently being placed on the sovereignty and commodity models, and it suggests ways to reestablish a better balance between all of the cultural models of property.

Keywords: coastal management; cultural models; property; public access

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08920750601042294

Affiliations: University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2007

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