Place-embedded agency: exploring knowledge-place connections for enabling plurality in governance of social-ecological systems.
Including different forms of knowledges and views in decision-making is crucial to managing the complexity of social-ecological systems (SES) in ways that are inclusive and embrace diversity. Sense of place scholarship can explain subjectivity in SES; however, it has hardly been considered together with the literature on knowledge processes, overlooking the epistemic dimension of sense of place and its potential to shed light on the roles and views of individuals in respect to natural resources and their management. This paper explores how local knowledge and place-belonging (as a form of sense of place) intersect, and what kinds of implications these knowledge-place connections have for the interactions between actors and their agency in the High Coast/Kvarken Archipelago UNESCO World Heritage Site (Sweden/Finland). Drawing on participant observation in workshops and semi-structured interviews with diverse actors in this transboundary governance context, we identify five types of knowledge-place connections, which exemplify diverse positions on local knowledge shaped by place-belonging. We propose a concept of place-embedded agency to reveal how these positions shape action and interaction between people inside and outside formal decision-making processes. We argue that recognising and taking place-embedded agency into account can help to overcome tensions and enhance plurality in SES governance.