Translocal Relations & Reorganization of Socio-Ecological Systems (SES)
A case study on the nexus between internal labor migration and land use in Kenya
PhD Dissertation by Vera Tolo
The project investigates the environmental impacts of translocal relations in migrants’ rural origins. It places specific attention on the (re)production of different types of translocal relations and their particular socio-ecological implications.
Migration is not a single, one-directional event in the lives of migrants, but a multi-directional, dynamic process resulting in multiple forms of connectedness of people and places at different times and on different scales. This connectedness is observable in the form of migration-induced translocal relations and transactions that flow along them. Translocal relations have an impact on socio-ecological systems (SES) in both sending and destination areas. Understanding socio-ecological change and specifically environmental impacts of migration thus requires an examination of the nature, type, and scope of translocal relations. Combining a translocal approach with SES theory thus facilitates a holistic understanding of the migration-environment nexus. Spatially distinct SES are influenced by and connected through a variety of processes associated with migration. Migration is therefore considered a particularly suitable vehicle to decipher the more general mechanisms of resilience, collapse, and reorganization in complex SES characterized by intensive cross-scale dynamics. The sub-project contributes to an understanding of human-environmental relations in Africa’s arid and semi-arid savannah areas that does not follow deterministic arguments.
Aim: The project seeks to advance knowledge on the migration-environment-nexus on a conceptual as well as empirical level. Conceptually, the project seeks to develop and synthesize the discussion on two broad topics, which until today remain widely unconnected; namely, translocality and social-ecological resilience. Additionally, it builds on insights from relational sociology and grounds the research in social theory. Empirically, the project aims to employ the synthesized framework on translocality and resilience through comparative research into rural-urban relations and their role in the re-organization of SES in Western and Central Kenya.
Methods: A wide-range of social science research methods will be employed to decipher the role of translocal relations for SES. These include: surveys, semi-structured interviews, and participatory approaches, amongst others. The project applies a multi-sited approach and follows migrants and the relationships that they maintain with other people over time and space. The starting point is Naivasha, an agro-industrial center (flower farms) located in the rift valley of Kenya.
The case study is part of a bigger interdisciplinary research project on the “Resilience, Collapse and Reorganisation in Complex Coupled Social-Ecological Systems in Africa (RCR)” funded by the German Research Foundation DFG. It draws on insights from sub-projects on global economic influences, local labor relations, and violent regulations in the reorganization of human-environment relations.