Rediscovering social–ecological systems: taking inspiration from actor-networks

Ehsan Nabavi*, Katherine A. Daniell

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Moving beyond the study of either of social or ecological networks, the research on social–ecological systems (SESs) has paved the way for sustainability science to analyse social and ecological networks in an integrated manner. However, the reality of SESs is not only one of hierarchal subsystems rooted in human societies and their ecological resource-based needs. Rather, it is constructed through a constellation of ‘socio-material’ relations between humans and the environment. This is a world in which not only the environment, and living species within it, is a passive actor, but other non-human actors, such as new technologies, discourses, models or even reports, can be seen to play a role in SESs’ present and future functionality. To capture this ‘more-than-human’ domain of interaction—which is essential for delivering a sound sustainability analysis—we place emphasis on the need for consideration of new socio-materialistic insights in SES conceptualisation and analysis. Along with adopting a transdisciplinary frame to provide relevance and usability of the concept, higher dimensional networks, known as simplicial complexes, are proposed for representing SES structures.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)621-629
    Number of pages9
    JournalSustainability Science
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


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