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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2011

Managing Impressions and Forests: The Importance of Role Confusion in Co-Creation of a Natural Resource Conflict

Angman, Elin; Hallgren, Lars; Nordstrom, Eva-Maria


Social interaction is an important-and often forgotten-aspect of conflicts in natural resource management (NRM). Building on the theoretical framework of symbolic interaction, this article explores how the concept of impression management during social interaction can help understand NRM conflicts. A qualitative study was carried out on a Swedish case involving a conflict over clear-cutting of a forest. To explain why the conflict escalated and destructivity increased, we investigated how the involved actors interpreted each other's actions. For an individual, role confusion occurs when a particular interaction creates a conflict between the presented self and the self expected from the social situation (Goffman 1956). The analysis shows that actors could not use their established social arenas to address dissatisfaction due to the fear of role confusion. Instead, they avoided informal face-to-face meetings and changed the conditions of the social situation to avoid role confusion.


embarrassment; Erving Goffman; forest management; natural resource conflict; natural resource management; roles; social interaction; symbolic interaction

Published in

Society and Natural Resources
2011, Volume: 24, number: 12, pages: 1335-1344