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Introduction by Ian Scoones to the PASTRES (Pastoralism, Uncertainty, Resilience) project. Given at EUI on 10 April 2019.
ERC Advanced Grant project. Started in late 2017. Collab between IDS, Sussex and EUI – and partners in different countries.
This is a follow up to a seminar held at EUI at beginning.
Here want to explore connections between insights from pastoralism – and understanding mobility in other domains.
Starting point for our project is an exploration of uncertainty.
Uncertainty – where don’t know likelihoods or oucomes – is pervasive. Written into the script of life (Nowotny).
Experiences of uncertainty – in climate, finance systems, disease outbreaks, critical infrastructures and so on - is challenging standard approaches to management and governance, often constructed around risk.
Radical proposition of project – can we learn from pastoralists, who have long lived with/from uncertainty (CLICK, book)?
PASTRES project is a series of connected projects. Core in China/Tibet, Italy/Sardinia and Kenya/Isiolo. Joined by others, in Southern Tunisia. Borana region of Ethiopia, and Gujarat, western India
Led by 6 PhD students in collaboration with local researcher……. All looking at different dimensions of uncertainty, and how pastoralists respond – in relation to environmental/resources, markets/commodities and governance/institutions.
Our aim over time is to develop some conversations with those grappling with uncertainty in different contexts. As part of a wider initiative, we have an event at Sussex in July, where we hope to kick off some of these conversations……
For example, with those working on finance and banking systems– and questions about network structure, stability and resilience, and the social dynamics of market practices…… For example, with those working on critical infrastructures (such as electricity systems, air traffic control) – and questions of professional practices and how reliability is generated….. For example, those working on natural disasters and disease outbreaks – and questions about preparedness and early warning….
And across all these – issues of governance practices – and the importance of adaptation, experimentation, improvisation in the face of uncertainty.
One theme we want to be part of these conversations is the question of mobility - and how mobility is a response to and sometimes a cause of uncertainty.
This seminar, then, an opportunity to see if there are connections, contrasts and further conversations that might result from an encounter between debates about mobility in pastoralism – and for example migration studies or cross-border trade – both key areas of EUI work.
So in thinking about the relationship between uncertainty and mobility, we can think about some of the insights from studies of pastoralism, around the 3 arenas of uncertainty I mentioned before – envt/res, markets/commodities, and govce/inst
In green – column highlights some of the themes from studies of pastoralist settings. Pastoralists move in search of grazing and markets, informal, flexible, networked, often collective institutional forms are important.
Yet….And this is in the r/col in red…. Despite mobility being central to adaptive responses to uncertainty, increasing constraints. Territorialisation, sedentarisation, border restrictions, regulations around trade, fear, conflict and securitisation. And so on. All affecting what possibilities there are.
We see this in all our sites in different form….. Whether in Sardinia or Ethiopia, Tunisia or Tibet,
Pastoral practices, but new challenges…. And more broadly.
Contradictory and ambiguous. At one level globalisation and new modernities mean - movement of people, goods, finance, ideas. Hopeful, positive narrative.
But also the oppoisite. A fearful, controlling, restrictive narrative = sedentarisation, border control, restricting movement. Control, fear, threat.
Many have argued that the future of the world is mobile.
Whether in terms of liquid modernities, network societies or technological nomadism, arguments against fixity, settled locations/identies, the importance of networked flows not nodes or spaces…. Argument is that life is shifting, mobile, rhizomaticaly networked, provisional and improvised, rather than structured, sedentary, fixed and static.
This many argue is the future – and politics, institutions and formal economies are only now realising… with great ruptures and challenges faced, reconfiguring visions of modernity etc.
CLICK: This of course can be set in a longer history, as James Scott does in his most recent book, with the earlier settled city states being confronted by the more successful, flexible and mobile (pastoral) barbarians….
Yet because mobility is so challenging to the ordered, controlled, fixity of standard governance arrangements – despite the rhetoric, and arguments for flexibility, open movement, and globalisation – there are reactions against this trend.
Controlled migration,, border restrictions, trade regulations….. Hot politics in Europe of course. Populist nationalists pushing against. Arguments about mobility central…..
As wider society struggles w these challenges, can pastoralists teach us a thing or two?
So in engaging with those concerned with migration or trade - in very different contexts - we are interested in thinking about what we can learn from pastoralists, and also what we can learn from migration studies, studies of trade and so on in thinking about mobility as a central feature of how we all confront uncertainty…..
We have two presentations on pastoralism that follow – one on labour migration and one on practices of mobility - we can hopefully we can begin to think about movement/mobility as a socio-technical and political practice, which is central to responses to uncertainties of different sorts…..
And encourage everyone reflect on three overlapping themes:
- The political and institutional contexts that enable or constrain mobility – both policy discourses and policy practices. - The socio-technical relations that constitute movement – how technologies (like mobile phones), non-human actors (livestock) intersect with very human social-political arrangements that allow mobility in response to uncertaitnies The everyday experience of movement – and the emotions and feelings that come with it – and how this relates to identity/identifications of peoples as mobile citizens.
The Future of the World is Mobile: What can we learn from pastoralists?
The future of the world is mobile:
can we learn from pastoralists?
Introduction to the PASTRES project
ESRC STEPS Centre/Institute of Development Studies.
University of Sussex
Uncertainties are everywhere….
“written into the script of life”
Wider challenges for mobile
common property, opportunism,
Informal, collective market
networks and collaborative
Flexible, adaptive, networked,
hybrid, mobile institutions