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Deliberation or symbolic violence?
The governance of community forestry in Nepal
The search for effective strategies to protect forests and improve livelihoods of the people dependent on them has led to several participatory approaches to governance over the past few decades globally. However, an important factor that hinders effective governance in most situations is the prevalence of complex interplay of power and knowledge among diverse groups of actors with unequal access to deliberative interactions related to governance. This means that improving governance must meet the challenges of modifying deep rooted, complex patterns of power that affect deliberative processes. Drawing on the concepts of deliberation (following Habermas) and symbolic violence (following Bourdieu), this paper explores the possibility and challenges of deliberative governance, taking the case of community forestry in Nepal. The central question this study seeks to address is how and to what extent various actors engage (or do not engage) in deliberative processes while enacting governance practices. It shows how a national forest governance programme is enacted as a complex economy of practices by a wide array of participants and analyses how certain groups continue to dominate the decision-making practices despite the growing rhetoric of participatory governance. Symbolic violence for our purpose occurs when claims to superior knowledge are used to legitimate closure in deliberation on forest governance practices and accepted by those excluded from effective deliberation. In the field of forest governance, we identify patterns of symbolic violence that limit the possibility of deliberation: creating boundaries in social field, cultivating internalised beliefs among governance actors, and sustaining unequal access to symbolic capital. The paper following Bourdieu, stipulates crisis as a necessary condition for the development of demands for increased deliberation by subordinated participants, and then explore sociological conditions for the development of crises into the situation of symbolic violence. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.