“Lies build trust”: Social capital, masculinity, and community-based resource management in a Mexican fishery

Last modified: 
July 15, 2019 - 1:50pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2019
Date published: 11/2019
Authors: Ben Siegelman, Nora Haenn, Xavier Basurto
Journal title: World Development
Volume: 123
Pages: 104601
ISSN: 0305750X

This paper relates how fishermen in San Evaristo on Mexico’s Baja peninsula employ fabrications to strengthen bonds of trust and navigate the complexities of common pool resource extraction. We argue this trickery complicates notions of social capital in community-based natural resource management, which emphasize communitarianism in the form of trust. Trust, defined as a mutual dependability often rooted in honesty, reliable information, or shared expectations, has long been recognized as essential to common pool resource management. Despite this, research that takes a critical approach to social capital places attention on the activities that foster social networks and their norms by arguing that social capital is a process. A critical approach illuminates San Evaristeño practices of lying and joking across social settings and contextualizes these practices within cultural values of harmony. As San Evaristeños assert somewhat paradoxically, for them “lies build trust.” Importantly, a critical approach to this case study forces consideration of gender, an overlooked topic in social capital research. San Evaristeña women are excluded from the verbal jousting through which men maintain ties supporting their primacy in fishery management. Both men’s joke-telling and San Evaristeños’ aversion to conflict have implications for conservation outcomes. As a result, we use these findings to help explain local resistance to outsiders and external management strategies including land trusts, fishing cooperatives, and marine protected areas.

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