Accepted paper:

"Hunger is the killer of children and women": state discourses for pastoral sedentarization in Africa


John Morton (University of Greenwich)

Paper short abstract:

An analysis from programme and policy documents, with particular reference to Uganda, of the wide range of new and recycled discourses on pastoralism now used by African governments to pre-empt or bypass the pro-pastoralism arguments of NGOs and researchers

Paper long abstract:

Arguments of researchers and NGOs on the intrinsic rationality and sustainability of pastoralism and the need to address the external drivers of pastoral poverty have become largely mainstreamed in the discourses of development donors. However African governments are now using a wide range of new and recycled discourses on pastoralism, singly and in new combinations, to counter these arguments. These include a familiar "modernization" discourse, conceiving pastoralism as less evolved way of life, and one that fails to contribute to national agricultural, economic and developmental goals. Science, and the supposed availability of new technical solutions for the rangelands, are called in aid of modernization. The need to reduce insecurity and extend "law and order" is highlighted, while the complex roles of African states in insecurity in pastoral areas are glossed over. Newer discursive strategies address the supposed non-viability of pastoralism in the face of recurrent drought and climate change, "food aid dependency", the assumed inhumanity to women and children of perversely maintaining pastoralism, and the need to counter "romanticism", implicitly the romanticism of NGOs and some donors. This paper analyses programme and policy documents to identify these strategies, with particular reference to Uganda and its policy of sedentarization and modernization in the Karamoja region. Discursive strategies are analysed in close relation to strategies of government (in the Foucauldian sense) and through the lens of biopolitics; but also, taking account of Agamben's critique of Foucault, in relation to the continuing exercise of sovereignty over the "bare life" of pastoralists.

panel MMM12
Lost in mutation: pastoral development rhetoric of the third millennium (IUAES Commission on Nomadic Peoples)