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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sociopolitical economy, identities, and roles in planning local environmental projects : cases from Kazakhstan Emmert, Jason Daniel


Multilateral and bilateral development agencies in cooperation with local partners have implemented hundreds of local environmental projects in Kazakhstan since its independence in 1991. This thesis presents case studies of four environmental projects, identifying some of the power dynamics around the projects and exploring how they have shaped and influenced project outcomes as well as social relationships among actors. From data gathered through in-depth personal interviews with project actors and participant observation of projects, the thesis presents and analyses a range of roles, identities and contexts as determining and explanatory factors for power dynamics and, by extension, project outcomes. The findings present evidence that power dynamics, through their relation to and dependence on roles, identities and contexts, have a determining impact on the link between project purpose and outcomes negotiated in the project planning process. Specifically, the findings suggest that relative power is dependent on the roles actors play in the planning process, that these roles are shaped by the identities of the actors, and that all of these are specifically defined by the larger socioeconomic context. Consequently, actors within their roles may possess differentiated levels of relative power, which in turn affect their abilities to shape processes, define goals, and achieve outcomes within the strategic bargaining context of project planning. The findings highlight the importance of examining and including the redistribution of the various forms of power in future projects as an explicit project outcome, through a better understanding of the existing and future relationships and the dynamics of power among actors; the usefulness of recognizing identities and their contribution to shaping power structures and strengthening project continuity; and the necessity of explicit recognition of how/why knowledge is legitimized as an important link between identity, roles, and power.

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