chapter  7
13 Pages

Case studies

A research tool for resource management

Even a brief review of the resource management literature reveals how important the case study is as a method in resource analysis. O’Faircheallaigh, for example, notes that ‘a substantial amount of research has now been conducted into the effects of resource development on indigenous peoples, but the existing literature is overwhelmingly empirical and case study in nature’ (1991: 228). In some books, brief case studies suffice to make a general point (e.g. Burger 1990; Ekins 1992; Knudtson and Suzuki 1992; Bodley 1982; Moody 1988). In others, more detailed case studies (Connell and Howitt 1991b; Maybury-Lewis 1992; Cant et al. 1993; Howitt 1996) are collected to demonstrate aspects of an argument or set of arguments expressed in a general introduction. In still others, a single detailed case study forms the core of a book that seeks to contextualise a particular case and generalise from it (Brody 1981; Gedicks 1993), or an idea or process becomes the ‘case’ to be examined from different perspectives and at different scales: for example Blaut (1993) provides a case study of geographical diffusionism and Jacobs (1996) tackles ideas of empire and identity. It is easy to think that by ‘doing a case study’ we have learned something. A lot of professional education is driven by the goal of acquiring new information, new ‘facts’ and new content. Content-led curriculum development remains an enduring feature of far too much professional education in this field, and case studies provide an unequivocal information base for content-led curricula. In setting up a series of case studies to facilitate rethinking resource management, we have highlighted:

• The importance of interaction and change in resource management systems;

• The complexity of relations within and between the elements of resource management systems and wider scale (historically, socially and geographically) processes;

• The value of diversity and holism as principles in approaches to resource management;

• The tension between bottom-up and top-down approaches to dealing with resource management issues;

• The importance of vantage point (among other things) in understanding what it is we are looking at, participating in and responding to;

• The importance of linkages between resource management systems and between elements which operate or are constructed at different scales.