RCR / Publications / Anthropology

Publications - Anthropology

Greiner, C., (2012), Unexpected Consequences: Wildlife Conservation and Territorial Conflict in Northern Kenya, Human Ecology, 40 (3):415-425

This article is concerned with the implementation of community-based conservancies (CBC) in conflict-ridden pastoralist areas of northern Kenya and whether the creation of protected areas can facilitate the resolution of conflict. Evidence from ethnographic research in East Pokot, Kenya, reveals a mixed picture. In the last decade, three CBCs were established along the administrative borders. Two of them are located in contested areas between the Pokot and neighboring pastoralists. In order to ensure their long-term success in terms of wildlife conservation and economic viability they must act as catalysts for inter-ethnic conflict resolution. In one case, the implementation proved successful, while in the other it exacerbated tensions and led to ethnic violence. In addition, issues of conservation are also embedded in deeper intra-societal struggles over the reconfiguration and renegotiation of access to and control over land. Drawing on ethnographic data and recent literature this research sheds light on unexpected consequences of CBC.

Greiner, C., (2013), Guns, land, and votes: Cattle rustling and the politics of boundary (re)making in Northern Kenya, African Affairs 112 (447): 216-237

Livestock raiding among northern Kenya's pastoralists has changed profoundly in the last decades. Fought with modern weaponry and often extreme violence, raiding is increasingly enmeshed in politicized claims over administrative boundaries, struggles for exclusive access to land, and attempts to establish or safeguard an ethnically homogeneous electoral base. These conflicts are part of Kenya's troubled politics of decentralization and as such they must be viewed in the context of wider political developments in the country. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in East Pokot and surrounding areas in Kenya's Central Rift Valley Province, this article demonstrates how livestock raiding emerges as a specific form of violent regulation, a well-adapted, dangerous, and powerful political weapon.

Greiner, C., Sakadapolrak, P., (2013), Rural-urban migration, agrarian change, and the environment in Kenya: a critical review of the literature, Population and Enivironment, 34 (4): 524-553

The nexus between migration dynamics and environmental change has drawn the attention of many researchers in the recent past. While the majority of studies focus on the impact of the environment on migration decisions, less emphasis has been placed on the feedback effect of migration on the environment in rural sending areas. This article provides a critical review of this relationship by focusing on the rich literature on rural–urban migration of smallholder households in Kenya and its effects on rural environments. The article argues that there are distinct relations between migration, agricultural change and the environment. These are mediated in varying degrees by flows of remittances, loss of labor, socioeconomic stratification, gender dynamics, and cultural factors. Overly generalizing assumptions about these relations, however, fail to grasp their complexity. We propose employing a translocal perspective to enrich future analysis and enhance the understanding of migration–environmental interactions.

Greiner, C., Sakapolrak, P. (2013), Translocality: Concepts, Applications and Emerging Research Perspectives,  Geography Compass 7(5): 373-348

The employment of translocality as a research perspective is currently gaining momentum. A growing number of scholars from different research traditions concerned with the dynamics of mobility, migration and socio-spatial interconnectedness have developed conceptual approaches to the term. They usually build on insights from transnationalism while attempting to overcome some of the limitations of this long-established research perspective. As such, translocality is used to describe socio-spatial dynamics and processes of simultaneity and identity formation that transcend boundaries—including, but also extending beyond, those of nation states. In this review, we trace the emergence of the idea of translocality and summarise the characteristics that different authors associate with the term. We elucidate the underlying notions of mobility and place and sketch out fields of research where the concept has been employed. On the basis of our findings, we conclude by proposing key areas where a translocal approach has the potential to generate fruitful insights

Naumann, C., (2014), Stability and Transformation in a South African Landscape: Rural Livelihoods, Governmental Interventions and Agro- Economic Change in Thaba Nchu, Journal of Southern African Studies, 40(1): 41-57

Despite an ambitious land reform programme, many rural households in South Africa derive only a small proportion of their livelihoods from agriculture, and tend rather to rely on off-farm incomes, whether in the form of wages from the commercial sector or social grants provided by the government. Focusing on communal areas in Thaba Nchu in the eastern Free State, this article addresses both continuities and transformations of the local land use patterns between the early twentieth century and the current state of low agricultural production. Based on ethnographic, archival, and aerial photographic data, the study retraces critical changes in the social–ecological system, taking into particular consideration the effects of governmental interventions on the agro-economic sector. Although rural Thaba Nchu has undergone profound shifts of land use patterns in its history, agricultural production there was most significantly transformed by the ‘betterment schemes’ initiated by the apartheid government. Initially intended to rehabilitate the reserves, the betterment in fact undermined local agriculture and destroyed rural livelihoods.

Greiner, C., et al., (2013): From Cattle to Corn: Attributes of Emerging Farming Systems of Former Pastoral Nomads in East Pokot, Kenya. In: Society & Natural Resources 2(12): 1478-1490.

Crop cultivation under rain-fed conditions is a recent innovation among the formerly pastoral-nomadic Pokot in north-central Kenya. We have examined the socioecological dynamics of land-use change from an interdisciplinary perspective. The patterns of transition to agropastoralism are closely related to both the biogeophysical attributes of the area and the economic characteristics of the households. While the use of advanced agronomic practices in the highlands is associated with annual maize grain yields of >2 Mg ha?1, unfavorable climatic and edaphic conditions, as well as the limited agronomic knowledge of the newcomer farmers in the lowland and mid-hill zones, make field crop production there an opportunistic, spatially scattered, and rather erratic land-use strategy. The accelerated transition to crop cultivation and the spatiotemporal differences in sedentarization between zones contribute to a fragmentation and shortage of land, which results in growing interhousehold inequalities and increasing conflicts within Pokot society.

Keck, M., Sakadapolrak, P., (2013), What is social resilience?, Erdkunke 67(1): 5-18

Over the last decade, a growing body of literature has emerged which is concerned with the question of what form a promising concept of social resilience might take. In this article we argue that social resilience has the potential to be crafted into a coherent analytic framework that can build on scientific knowledge from the established concept of social vulnerability, and offer a fresh perspective on today’s challenges of global change. Based on a critical review of recently published literature on the issue, we propose to define social resilience as being comprised of three dimensions: 1. Coping capacities –the ability of social actors to cope with and overcome all kinds of adversities; 2. Adaptive capacities – their ability to learn from past experiences and adjust themselves to future challenges in their everyday lives; 3. Transformative capacities – their ability to craft sets of institutions that foster individual welfare and sustainable societal robustness towards future crises. Viewed in this way, the search for ways to build social resilience – especially in the livelihoods of the poor and marginalized – is revealed to be not only a technical, but also a political issue.

Lang, B., Sakdapolrak, P., (2014), Belonging and Recognition after the post-election violence: A case study on labour migrants in Naivasha, Kenya, Erdkunkde, 68(3): 185-196

The 2013 general elections in Kenya entailed no recurrence of the 2007–08 post-election violence. Closer examination at the local level, though, indicates that the experiences of violence continue to influence the social sphere. Divisions between a long-established population and newcomers are blatant especially at places with high levels of immigration. This paper addresses how experiences of violent conflict over identitary and territorial belonging affect and transform sociospatial organisation. The analysis is based on an empirical study at one of the venues of the post-election violence, a poor and heterogeneous workers’ settlement in Naivasha in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Naivasha area is internationally known for its horticultural production and massive labour immigration. After the 2007 elections, radical individuals of the local Kikuyu ethnic majority claimed Naivasha as their territory as a reaction to the displacement of Kikuyus from other parts of the country.
Migrants of unwanted ethnic identity or political positioning were murdered or forcibly evicted from the place. Yet, due to poor job opportunities, especially in western Kenya, job seekers continue to migrate to Naivasha. The repercussions of the violence are expressed in the lack of acceptance, on the part of the long-established population at the place, of the presence of labour migrants. Experiences of ethnicised prejudice, mistrust, and fear between the self-described autochthonous population and labour migrants are tenacious. Kikuyus perceive Naivasha as their place of refuge and are willing to defend it if necessary. Migrants barely develop feelings of belonging to Naivasha, seeking rather to enhance their own security during their stay at the place. This study illustrates that memories of the violence still regulate socio-spatial realities and reinforce and accelerate processes of spatial and societal division.

Bollig, M., et al., (2014): Inscribing Identity and Agency on the Landscape: Of Pathways, Places and the Transition of the Public Sphere in East Pokot, Kenya. In: African Studies Review 57(3): 55-78.

Drawing upon the dynamic interrelationship between human agency and space, this article sheds light on the constitution of and relation between “place” and “path” among the pastoral Pokot of East Pokot District in the Kenyan North Rift Valley. It discusses the transformation from a more mobile pastoralist model of spatialization, which relies on a flexible network approach combining paths and places, toward a more “place-making,” postpastoralist model linked to increasing sedentariness, privatization of land, a clearer definition of external and internal boundaries, and a rapid emergence of schools, churches, and other physical structures.

Lang, B., Sakdapolrak, P., (2015), Violent Place-Making: How Kenya's Post-Election Violence Transforms A Workers' Settlement At Lake Naivasha, Political Geography, 45(C): 67-78

Violent events significantly influence the identity of places. Post-conflict areas evoke specific meanings and emotions, and the narratives of violent events have profound effects on the individual and collective interpretations of the venues of violence. This paper addresses the interdependent relationship between violence and place, considering the structural and multi-scalar conditions of a relational and discursive making of places. By linking them with an empirically grounded analysis of the materialisation of violence, we follow Gearóid Ó Tuathail's (2010) call for a more grounded study of place-specific causes for violent conflict. We focus on an empirical example – the post-election violence in Kenya 2007/08 – and look into one of its venues, a poor and heterogeneous workers' settlement at Lake Naivasha in Kenya's Rift Valley. Considering the specific socio-political setting in Kenya, we first examine the factors that explain why the violence broke out at that place in particular. We combine an exploration of the structural conditions that determined the violence, and which still regulate social life at present, with a presentation of the individual accounts of people directly or indirectly involved in the violence in Naivasha. We then investigate how the experience of violence has influenced the imaginations of the place, and whether these localised imprints of violence in Naivasha continue to regulate social and spatial (re)organisation after the events themselves. The study reveals that politically instigated societal divides continue to exist, and that memories of the violence induce intensified processes of segregation in the surveyed settlement during times of political uncertainty.

Anderson, D.M., Bollig, M., (2016), Resilience and Collapse: Histories, Ecologies, Conflicts and Identities in the Baringo-Bogoria Basin, Kenya, Journal of Eastern African Studies, 10(1): 1-20

The concept of resilience is now applied across the natural and social sciences to provide a means of examining and understanding adaptation and transformation over a longer time period, in response to environmental, economic, cultural, or political shocks or adverse events. This essay introduces a collection of 10 studies that analyse resilience in the context of the Baringo-Bogoria basin, a predominantly savannah ecological zone in Kenya's northern Rift Valley. Framed by the adaptive cycle model, the studies span a history of 200 years, but also detail current challenges to the social-ecological system of the region. Resilience has allowed the communities of Baringo-Bogoria to adapt and transform in order to maintain production systems dominated by cattle pastoralism, with intensive agriculture in niche locations. The authors suggest that the most recent challenges confronting the peoples of this region – intensified conflicts, mounting poverty driven by demographic pressures, and dramatic ecological changes brought by invasive species – have contributed to a collapse in essential elements of the specialised cattle production system, requiring a re-orientation of the social-ecological system.

Bollig, M., (2016), Adaptive Cycles in the Savannah: Pastoral Specialization and Diversification in Northern Kenya, Journal of Eastern African Studies, 10(1): 21-44

Comparative evidence from Eastern Africa suggests the emergence of a highly specialized mobile pastoral livelihood came about in the early- to mid-nineteenth century. Developments in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have seen a distinct turn away from this model of pastoral specialization, towards a more mixed and spatially varied set of livelihood strategies. Low intensity warfare, environmental degradation, rapid population increase, and a shift away from cattle pastoralism and towards goat and camel herding are all evident in the current transition of Pokot livelihoods. Lifestyles have become more sedentary and diversified, while agricultural activities have rapidly spread, with the increased marketing of livestock and other commodities. This article traces the history of these changes among the pastoral Pokot of north-western Kenya (today's Baringo County), using the notions of the adaptive cycle and resilience as key explanatory tools in seeking to understand the patterns and drivers of change over time.

Greiner, C., Mwaka, I., (2016), Agricultural Change at the Margins: Adaptation and Intensification in a Kenyan Dryland, Journal of Eastern African Studies, 10(1): 130-149

Land-use and livelihood patterns among Eastern African pastoralists have undergone dramatic change in recent decades. The dynamics in East Pokot effectively illustrate these changes. We focus on the spread and intensification of honey production and crop cultivation, describing the patterns of adaptation and diffusion and the current techniques of production. These processes must be understood as dynamics of agricultural intensification, and not as forms of diversification, because current transformations in pastoral communities go beyond temporal strategies of risk avoidance. In the case of East Pokot, intensification is related to population growth, albeit not in the linear manner proposed by Boserup. Rather, this relation is mediated by variables that include markets, labour, technology and the micro-conditions of the agro-ecological environment.


Greiner, C.; Sakdapolrak, P. (2016): Migration, Environment and Inequality: Perspectives of a Political Ecology of Translocal Relations. In: Schade, J., Faist, T.; McLeman, R. (Eds). Environmental Migration and Social Inequality, Springer, Cham, pp. 151-163.

Research into the relationship between environment and migration—particularly how the environment influences the decision to migrate—has gained currency in the last decade. However, the growing body of recent environmental-migration literature exhibits an under-theorized and depoliticized notion of the environment. Furthermore, migration is usually perceived as an emergency response, a one-time movement, neglecting the often inherent circularity and continuous effects of migration. In this chapter, we introduce the concepts of translocality and political ecology as a means to address this lapse. We also propose a political ecology of translocal relations as a framework for research into the migration-environment nexus. This to be an important issue in this time of mounting and often reductionist debates.

Vehrs, H.-P., (2016), Changes in Landscape Vegetation, Forage Plant Composition and Herding Structure in the Pastoralist Livelihoods of East Pokot, Kenya, Journal of Eastern African Studies, 10(1): 88-110

Oral evidence from pastoral Pokot on vegetation changes in the rangelands of northern Baringo District points to major changes in structure and biodiversity composition over the past century. A landscape of perennial grasses has turned into an Acacia-dominated bush-land. Pelil (Acacia nubica), talamogh (Acacia mellifera), or anyua (Acacia reficiens), which characterise the pastoral landscape today, have increased rapidly since the 1950s. This article compares perceptions of current changes in grass compositions with former accounts, highlighting local assessments of declining high-quality grasses such as abrute (Brachiaria deflexa, Setaria homonyma) or puyun (Eragrostis cilianensis). The changes described are linked to a number of causal factors (high grazing pressure, restriction of pastoral mobility, increasing population numbers), allowing us to historicise the profound change in landscape vegetation. The costs and benefits of bush encroachment are also examined. The tremendous increase in goat numbers, and the sizeable growth of camel herds, is closely connected to the increased availability of fodder plants for browsers. The article concludes by contrasting the views expressed on landscape by Pokot elders with scientific accounts of environmental change.

Linstädter, A., et al. (2016), Assessing the resilience of a real-world social-ecological system: lessons from a multidisciplinary evaluation of a South African pastoral system, Ecology and Society 21 (3):35

In the past decades, social-ecological systems (SESs) worldwide have undergone dramatic transformations with often detrimental consequences for livelihoods. Although resilience thinking offers promising conceptual frameworks to understand SES transformations, empirical resilience assessments of real-world SESs are still rare because SES complexity requires integrating knowledge, theories, and approaches from different disciplines. Taking up this challenge, we empirically assess the resilience of a South African pastoral SES to drought using various methods from natural and social sciences. In the ecological subsystem, we analyze rangelands’ ability to buffer drought effects on forage provision, using soil and vegetation indicators. In the social subsystem, we assess households’ and communities’ capacities to mitigate drought effects, applying agronomic and institutional indicators and benchmarking against practices and institutions in traditional pastoral SESs. Our results indicate that a decoupling of livelihoods from livestock-generated income was initiated by government interventions in the 1930s. In the post-apartheid phase, minimum-input strategies of herd management were adopted, leading to a recovery of rangeland vegetation due to unintentionally reduced stocking densities. Because current livelihood security is mainly based on external monetary resources (pensions, child grants, and disability grants), household resilience to drought is higher than in historical phases. Our study is one of the first to use a truly multidisciplinary resilience assessment. Conflicting results from partial assessments underline that measuring narrow indicator sets may impede a deeper understanding of SES transformations. The results also imply that the resilience of contemporary, open SESs cannot be explained by an inward-looking approach because essential connections and drivers at other scales have become relevant in the globalized world. Our study thus has helped to identify pitfalls in empirical resilience assessment and to improve the conceptualization of SES dynamics.

Naumann, C. and Greiner, C. (accepted): The Translocal Villagers. Mining, Mobility and Stratification in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Forthcoming in: Mobilities.

Internal labour migration from rural areas to urban centres has been and remains one of the dominant patterns of migration in South Africa. Based on data from ethnographic field research, this paper explores the mobility patterns and translocal relations of miners in the Northern Cape province
of South Africa. By considering the tension between mobility and locality in a historical and political perspective, the concept of translocality helps to explain why miners try to expand their action space and, at the same time, why they are embedded in certain places. Thus, a translocal perspective enhances the interpretation of the spatio-temporal transformations in South Africa’s mining communities and beyond, as it sheds light on the agency of mine workers, superseding merely  
tructuralist explanations.