Relationality and social-ecological systems: Going beyond or behind sustainability and resilience

Raul P. Lejano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2760
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • Relational
  • Relationality
  • Social ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Relationality and social-ecological systems: Going beyond or behind sustainability and resilience'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this