Lejano, R. (2019). “Relationality and social–ecological systems: Going beyond or behind sustainability and resilience.” Sustainability, 11(10), 2760.


Sustainability and resilience are most often thought of as systems concepts that evaluate the state and function of objects of interest as well as the system as a whole. In this article, we shift the focus toward the “space in between”—i.e., the relationships among objects in the system. The article develops the concept of relationality, which provides a new lens to understanding what social and material processes drive or impede the functioning and sustainability of a social–ecological system (SES). Relationality seeks to understand a system not so much as a set of interacting objects but a web of relationships. By foregrounding relationships, we are better able to understand the rich ground of practice that guides a system in ways that the formal rational designs do not explain. Several examples are drawn from the literature that suggests how a relational analysis might proceed and what social–ecological phenomena we can better explain by this means. The article ends with a note on how the promise of relational analyses also bears in it its challenges.

Keywords: social ecology; relationality; relational