Guest Lecture: “Becoming Adult and Citizen Nowadays in the West African Pastoral Societies”

On 12/06/2018 Charline Rangé (UMR Prodig/AgroParisTech, Paris, France) is giving a guest lecture in the seminar “Between Market and Morale: Adaptation, Resistance and Change in Rural Societies“:

Becoming Adult and Citizen Nowadays in the West African Pastoral Societies: What Is Changing with the Commodification of Pastoral Resources and the Intensification of Rural-urban Connections?

Violence is becoming the new paradigm of institutional debates on pastoralism in sub-Saharan Africa. Tending to generalize the situations of violence to all pastoral societies, this paradigm is based on a sort of renewed “environmental security” theory that causally links resources scarcity, “idleness” of young pastoralists and violent conflicts. This common view prevents from paying attention to market-driven or policy-driven structural changes; to rural-urban mobilities (migrations, economic transfers, norms and values, etc.); to inequalities and power relationships; and to the meaning of citizenship in pastoral societies. Finally, the living conditions of pastoral youth remain poorly understood. This talk deals with the changing processes in achieving adult status in Fulani pastoral societies in West Africa, linking them with the rapid commodification of pastoral resources (labor, livestock, natural resources) and the intensification of rural-urban connections. Achieving adult status is seen as a social process involving the different forms of transfer between generations, ages and sexes, as well as norms and values relating to rights and obligations within families and to citizenship. This will aim to discuss a research project: questioning, hypothesis, theoretical and conceptual anchoring, methodology. Drawing on a literature analysis, we will first identify the main changes that have occurred in pastoral societies over the past two decades, from the point of view of young people’s trajectories. In particular, we will discuss the reduction of non-market transfers of livestock rights on which intra and intergenerational forms of solidarity were historically based; the changing patterns of land access and pastoral territories, in particular with the displacement of mobility axes to coastal countries; the commodification of pastoral labor; and the urban migrations. We will then discuss four research hypothesis. First, there is a diversification in the processes of achieving adult status: diversification of living spaces, activities, social networks, spaces of belonging. Second, this diversification is associated with a redefinition of the relationships of obligation and protection within family groups. Third, this redefinition induces a phenomenon of “narrowing in the definition of belonging” within family groups that generates new forms of exclusion. Lastly, these new processes of achieving adult status involve a new relationship with national citizenship among the new generation, which may face potential rejection by the global society or by the community of origin. We will end by discussing a methodology based on a multi-sited ethnography, in both urban and rural areas.

Charline Rangé is a geographer (PhD in 2016) and a social economist (EHESS, AgroParisTech). Her researches focus on exploitation and governance of natural resources in wetlands on the one hand, and on the other, on changes in intra-family relationships with commodification of land, labor and livestock and urban migrations in West African rural societies. She worked mainly on the shores of Lake Chad (Cameroon) and in Forest Guinea.