RCR / Projects / B1 Anthropology & Geography

B1 - Anthropology


Violent Regulation and Social-Ecological Transformation of Wetland Ecosystems in East Africa

Research Areas: Social and Cultural Geography / Social and Cultural Anthropology

Principal Investigators:     

Dr. Patrick Sakdapolrak
Prof. Dr. Michael Bollig

The sub-project seeks to understand the dynamics of transformation of social-ecological systems of two exemplary wetland ecosystems in East Africa, namely Lake Naivasha and Lake Baringo, both situated in Kenya's Rift Valley. The respective social-ecological systems are ecologically rich but highly fragile and they have become contested arenas in which a large number of conflicting actors negotiate various critical agendas. Preliminary work on the two regions shows, that a number of conflicts have triggered vital changes in both social-ecological systems. The rapid expansion of agro-industries and connected to it the immigration of ten thousands of workers in the one case (Naivasha), and the escalation of inter-community violence and the politicisation and ethnicising of resource issues in the other case (Baringo) led to the search for new forms of regulation of social-ecological dynamics. Various strategies are applied to garner support for or enforce new forms of regulation of human-environment relations. A fundamental option in both cases for both powerful and powerless actors is to resort to structural and/or physical violence. Here the sub-project places its focus: how does conflict and violence shape the regulation of human-environment relations? Current social-ecological research defines violent regulation as a process in which multifarious actors resort to direct and/or structural violence to determine the regulation of deeply contested society-nature interactions in favour of their own interests. Violent regulation is, therefore, both a means and an expression of social struggles that are fought around new social-ecological regimes in rapidly transforming systems. The sub-project combines approaches from social geography and social and cultural anthropology. While the social-geographical part of the sub-project will concentrate on cross-scale dynamics of violent regulations and on conflicting modes of regulation of human-environment relations, the social-anthropological part will focus on the use of violence, commoditization and politicization of local modes of regulation and emergent institutions. Both perspectives will converge on conceptualizing violent regulation as a negotiation process and as social and cultural practice that reflects the coupling of the social, ecological and semiotic subsystems of SES.