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Elinor Ostrom: A Biography of Interdisciplinary Life

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Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Author: Clark, Sara
Date: 2019
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/10428
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Region:
Subject(s): Ostrom, Elinor
Abstract: "My dissertation is a study of 2009 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences Elinor Ostrom (1933-2012) that sheds light on intellectual life and the organization of knowledge in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Using biography, this project uncovers Elinor’s interdisciplinary practice, especially through the influences of her husband and intellectual partner Vincent Ostrom and their interdisciplinary research Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University Bloomington. My analysis focuses on how Elinor, the only woman yet to receive the Economics Nobel, negotiated complex studies of human behavior—from water supply in Southern California to police services throughout the United States to forest governance around the world—by developing a primarily collaborative research approach that integrated methods and insights from the social sciences. Elinor prioritized increasing understanding of these global problems over identifying with a clear disciplinary community. I argue that who Elinor was as a person made it possible for her to develop and give meaning to her interdisciplinary practice. Organized chronologically and structured by significant events, this study examines Elinor’s intellectual life in four parts: her childhood and early adult education, development of the Ostrom Workshop, publication of her most well-known book Governing the Commons (1990), and global expansion of her ideas and research community. Attention to Elinor’s various roles as student, team leader, teacher, mentor, partner, entrepreneur, art collector, field researcher, administrator, and philanthropist contributes a complex, dynamic example of a female intellectual life. Interviews with members of the Ostroms’ academic and personal communities as well as examination of their personal papers and art collection provide primary perspective to this study. Ultimately, the blurred boundaries between her personal life and professional career point to four shaping tenets of Elinor’s interdisciplinary practice: hard work, artisanship and contestation, collaboration, and openness to multiple solutions."

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