Professor David Anderson, Research Award from AHRC
The lower Omo Valley in southwestern Ethiopia is one of the biologically and culturally most diverse regions of East Africa. Over the last 100 years, it has undergone large-scale physical changes due to reduced rainfall over the Omo catchment and a consequent fall in ground water levels. Since the 1960s, two national parks and a state farm have been established and there is a growing tourist industry centred not only on wildlife but also on the local cultures.
This is an ideal location for an interdisciplinary study of the interaction between people and the environment and of the culturally specific ways in landscape is described, imagined and `constructed`. Two post-doctoral research assistants, one trained in the techniques of palaeoecology, will be recruited early next year, to join Anderson (an historian) and Turton (who has thirty years experience of anthropological research in the lower Omo).
The project has a local focus but global implications. The aim will be to reach a detailed understanding of the sequence of environmental changes and vegetation history over the past 200 years; the way these changes have influenced and been influenced by the land-use practices, migratory and seasonal movements, social institutions and cultural values of the human population; and the impact of incorporation into wider political and economic processes on local understandings of landscape, locality, territory and belonging.
The results will be targeted at historians, anthropologists and geographers working on African environmental history; at conservation scientists, environmentalists and policy-makers, including government and international bodies, concerned with the role of human activity in environmental degradation and biodiversity loss and with the links between conservation, poverty reduction and development; and at academics from a range of disciplines interested in the social construction of landscape, locality and belonging