Armed violence, banditry and insurrection were long associated with pastoralism. Pastoralists have been (and often still are) viewed as a threat to neighbouring sedentary societies, an impediment to state formation and the extension of centralised power, and a menace to peaceful development. The lecture by Jeremy Lind reviews perspectives on the causes of conflict – from resource scarcity thinking to perspectives on ‘greed and grievance’ – and considers their suitability to understanding conflict in pastoralist contexts.
Early ethnographies glorified customs of warfare and warriors in pastoralist society, perpetuating the notion of a backward and violent social order in need of pacification. State violence against pastoralists was justified as part of a civilizing mission to bring peace. Unsurprisingly, state institutions were not trusted. The state’s presence was minimal at the frontier, where day-to-day governance was usually the domain of hybrid structures, involving customary authorities, local government and non-state actors like temples, mosques and prominent local businesspeople all performing state-like functions.
Renewed state interest in pastoral areas – such as through infrastructure corridors and extractive developments – makes it essential to understand the political economy of governance in pastoral areas. The lecture considers how states might extend power in new settlements: by co-opting sub-national elites – extending a model of patronage evident in a wider political system; through devolution and the establishment of sub-national administration; by imposing state security and representatives of centralised administration; or through focusing only on privately-secured, high-value enclaves.
Watch the lecture
Taking a pastoralist context that you are most familiar with:
- What is the nature of conflict that is happening now or in recent history?
- What factors do you think are important in explaining these conflicts – resource/climate, socio-cultural, political economy, greed or grievance?
- How have state-society relations changed over time?
- Does expanding or deepening state power in pastoralist areas inevitably lead to greater conflict?
- Abdi, A. and Lind, J. (2018) The changing nature of local peacebuilding in Kenya’s north-eastern borderlands. Accord Insight, 4.
- Benjaminsen, T.A., and Boubacar, B. (2019) Why do pastoralists in Mali join jihadist groups? A political ecological explanation. Journal of Peasant Studies, 46: 1-20
- Benjaminsen, T.A., and Boubacar B. (2009) Farmer–herder conflicts, pastoral marginalisation and corruption: a case study from the inland Niger delta of Mali. The Geographic Journal, 175: 71–81.
- Galaty, J. (2016) Boundary-making and pastoral conflict along the Kenyan–Ethiopian Borderlands. African Studies Review, 59: 97–122.
- Goodhand, J. and Meehan, P. (2018) Spatialising political settlements. Accord Insight, 4.
- Greiner, C. (2013) Guns, land, and votes: Cattle rustling and the politics of boundary (re)making in Northern Kenya. African Affairs, 112: 216-237.
- Hagmann, T. and Mulugeta, A. (2008) Pastoral conflicts and state-building in the Ethiopian lowlands. Africa Spectrum 43: 19-37.
- Korf, B., Hagmann, T. and Emmenegger, R. (2015) Re-spacing African drylands: territorialization, sedentarization and indigenous commodification in the Ethiopian pastoral frontier. Journal of Peasant Studies, 42(5): 881-901.
- Leonard, D.K. and Samantar, M. (2013) Reconstructing political order among the Somalis: the historical record in the south and centre. IDS Bulletin, 44(1), 4-52.
- Lind, J., Okenwa, D. and Scoones, I. (eds.) (2020) Land, Investment and Politics: Reconfiguring Eastern Africa’s Pastoral Drylands. Woodbridge: James Currey (Chapter 1 – open access (PDF) / Full text – available to purchase)
- Luckham, R. and Kirk, T. (2013) The two faces of security in hybrid political orders: a framework for analysis and research. Stability: International Journal of Security and Development 2, 2.
- Meagher, K. (2012) The strength of weak states? Non‐state security forces and hybrid governance in Africa. Development and Change, 43: 1073-1101.
- Watts, M. (2018) Frontiers: authority, precarity and insurgency at the edge of the state. World Development, 101: 477–488.
Photo credit: Hussein Salesa
This is the final section of the course.
To learn more, go back to the course front page to explore the full course reading list and watch video lectures and seminars.
For up-to-date commentary on pastoralism and uncertainty from the PASTRES programme, read and subscribe to our blog – visit the PASTRES homepage to see the most recent articles.
To stay in touch with our work, sign up to the PASTRES e-newsletter.
Feedback and questions
If you have feedback or questions on the course, please send them by email to firstname.lastname@example.org