Perceptions of Legitimacy of Maps and Mapping in Conflict Resolution



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This research examined the relationship between stakeholder perception of legitimacy of maps/mapping and conflict resolution. Evaluation of perceptions of legitimacy in maps/mapping as part of conflict resolution can manifest as questions or judgments about who has the authority or right to map, what information sources and ways of knowing are legitimate, and what map products and methods are legitimate. A theoretical framework was developed that focused on three areas of legitimacy determined to be fundamental: legitimacy of stakeholder, legitimacy of information, and legitimacy of representation. Two water-related environmental resource case studies, each involving multiple types of stakeholders (e.g., citizen, government, agriculture, environment) involved in conflict resolution working groups, were investigated and comparatively analyzed. The Delmarva case focused on a chicken litter management conflict. The Lynnhaven case dealt with a conflict concerning oyster cultivation. Research results include findings about the importance of social considerations, framing, and abundant participant input concerning their opinions, experiences, and recommendations concerning maps/mapping in conflict resolution. A particularly significant discovery was the central and defining role legitimacy of stakeholder played in both case studies. Lastly, it is hoped that this research might be useful to conflict resolution practitioners in their attempts to “level the playing field” for stakeholders in conflict resolution activities. Therefore, potential implications and recommendations are provided that might be used to guide efforts to ensure appropriate, positive perception of legitimacy of maps/mapping among stakeholders, thereby encouraging constructive engagement, key to conflict resolution success.