Understanding coastal zone innovation : The ‘Waterdunen’ project as an ecology of practices

Derriks, Timo; Peters, Karin; Duim, René van der


The coastal zone has many uses; people live, work and recreate in these areas, protect nature and create protective barriers between the sea and the people living near the coast. In this study, we examine the unfolding of the ‘Waterdunen’ project in the Dutch province of Zeeland as a form of coastal development. By using practice theory, and specifically the notion of ‘ecology of practices’, we unravel factors that hindered or stimulated coastal development related to different practices: coastal defence, salt-water nature development, recreation and tourism, dwelling and farming. Our analysis of newspaper articles, project publications and interviews showed that for Waterdunen to happen, tourism and recreation and salt-water nature development needed to be bundled whereas farming and dwelling practices had to be unbundled, sometimes even through (the treat of) expropriation. We gained detailed insights into the coastal development process by examining underlying cultural-discursive, material-economic and socio-political arrangements. The approach presented in this article shows a promising potential for also studying other developments related to coastal zone transformation. Management implications: Our study suggests that policymakers and managers are better off when they move beyond a mere description of stakeholders, their interests and powers at play and instead approach policy in a more modest and subtle way by trying to understand the more fundamental nature of the processes they seek to influence. Analyzing how practices co-exist, overlap or interfere with one another invites more deliberate interventions also taking care of the cultural discursive arrangements that underlie most social practices. By doing so, a promising mode of enquiry is for example participatory destination and land use planning.