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C3 - Anthropology


In Search of Order: Institutional Change, Violent Regulation and Environmental Knowledge under Conditions of Rapid Social Ecological Change

Research Areas:
Social Anthropology

Principal Investigator:   

Prof. Dr. Michael Bollig

Pastoral nomadic societies in Eastern Africa are rapidly changing: sedentarisation, the demise of communal pasture management, diversification entailing increasing investment into sedentary agriculture, labour migration and growing internal stratification are the more obvious consequences of such changes. Besides high rates of demographic growth, widespread violence, state failure and the increasing commoditisation of pastoral production are named as major causes. The historical contextualization of main drivers highlights that processes perceived as rapid nowadays have deep historical roots. These often reach back to late colonial projects of resource management. This sub-project will analyse how pastoralists redefine their relations to the environment through altered modes of engagement with the landscape entailing changes in land-use, control over land and water and changing intellectual approaches to ‘the environment’. Frequently the reorganization of human-environmental system entails the appropriation of globalized models of sustainable resource tenure.
  The lead hypothesis of sub-project C3 is that these changes necessitate a profound reorganisation of the entire regime of regulation: a formerly uniform regime of regulation is breaking up and it is not clear whether different regimes of regulation will co-exist in the future, whether one new regime of regulation (e.g., agro-pastoralism) will arise or if contestations over different approaches to the environment will shape the future. The sub-project will have the great chance to zoom in on a process of reorganisation, which has started perhaps ten to twenty years ago and is still evolving. It will have the opportunity to observe how new institutions arise and others are dismissed, expanding the focus back until the 1950s. Communities and actors are actively searching for new forms of resilience in an increasingly complex setting.


During the first phase we will engage in research on the Pokot of Baringo District:

Clemens Greiners study will target changes at the fringes of Pokot-land (e.g., the transition to sedentary agriculture in Churo Highlands, politicisation of resources and borderlands, individuation of land tenure rights), and changes brought about by engagement in larger networks of exchange and new forms of mobility (e.g., labor migration, new forms of conflict settlement, elite formation, changing consumption patterns).

Anja Becker will focus on the role of gender within these transformatory processes. She will explore (1) how women perceive these changes and subsequently define their new roles (e.g., labor organization, property and land rights, participation in public institutions); (2) how these changes impact on the interaction between women and men; and (3) on the whole Pokot society.


Transformations of pastoralism in the Baringo Plains directly affect processes at Lake Baringo, we therefore will closely cooperate with sub-projects working in the Lake Baringo-area, namely with B1 (geography/anthropology), A2 (crop sciences) and at a later stage of the project also with A3 (savannah ecology). A close working relationship also is planned with sub-project C2 (media-anthropology).


The sub-project will work closely with two Kenyan conterparts, both working at Egerton University. The close collaboration with Egerton University – situated close to our field site at Naivasha – will also be extended to students. Currently two students from Egerton are applying for stipends to study at the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology. Furthermore, Bollig, Greiner and Becker are consulting the implementation of a new degree in social and cultural anthropology at Egerton University.

Counterpart 1:
Dr. Kibet Ngetich, Egerton University

Dr. Kibet Ngetich, Egerton University, Nakuru, has done his Ph.D. with Bollig and has been in Cologne for more than three years with DAAD doctoral and post doctoral funding. Dr. Ngetich will supervise an MA study on migration and pastoralism.

Counterpart 2:
Dr. Hussein A. Mahmoud, Egerton University

Dr. Hussein A. Mahmoud did his Ph.D. with Peter Little, Atlanta and has been a visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institut for Ethnology/Halle-Saale. Dr. Mahmoud will supervise an MA study on the rapidly increasing relevance of livestock trade and the restructuring of livestock trade in the Baringo basin.

Further direct cooperation

Prof. Terry McCabe, Boulder, Colarado, who has been awarded the Humboldt Research Award in 2009 will spend more than half a year in Cologne (Sept. 2009 to May 2010). He will focus on change among the pastoral Maasai of Tanzania where he observed a similarly rapid trend towards agriculture. McCabe also has long term experience working with the pastoral Turkana. During the preparatory phase, our team will greatly profit from the experience of McCabe.

Prof. John Galaty, Montreal, works on land fragmentation among Kenyan Maasai. He has been especially interested in the relation between fragmentation, diversification and social differentiation. Galaty and Bollig are currently considering a volume on change in African pastoral communities after successfully organising a large panel on change in African pastoral communities at the IUAES conference in Kunming, China.



Clearing of bush
Distribution of drought food relief
Escalating land dispute
Honey production
Maize production
Survey work
Pokot-ilchamus peace meeting
Privatisation of communal land
Soil erosion