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Why Should Governmentality Matter for the Study of Pastoral Development?

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This article explores some of the ways in which analyses based around Foucault's concept of 'governmentality' might cast light on the ways in which pastoralists in Africa are and might be governed, given the persistence of poor policy, poor governance and hostile attitudes towards pastoralism by central and local government officials. Key concepts in the Foucauldian approach are briefly outlined: power (productive, multiple and bound up with knowledge), government ('the conduct of conduct') and governmentality (modes of thinking about government in general but also certain modes specific to the development of Western liberalism). Five reasons for using the approach in the study of pastoral development are identified: a commitment to specificity and contingency; an attention to multiple actors; an attention to diverse 'technologies of rule'; a focus on the interconnections of power, knowledge and discourse; and a record of studying marginalized groups. The argument is illustrated with examples drawn mainly from East Africa. Possible objections to a Foucauldian approach are discussed, and key questions for pastoralist research using the governmentality approach are set out.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2010

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  • Nomadic Peoples is an international journal published by the White Horse Press for the Commission on Nomadic Peoples, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Its primary concerns are the current circumstances of all nomadic peoples around the world and their prospects. Its readership includes all those interested in nomadic peoples, scholars, researchers, planners and project administrators.
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