SOAS University of London

SOAS scholar awarded grant of £300k for project on resilience in West African communities

31 October 2017

Dr Marie Rodet, Senior Lecturer in the History of Africa, has been awarded a grant of £300,000 by the ESRC-DFID Development Frontiers Research Fund 2016-17.

The project, "Resilience strategies in West African frontier communities", will look at how frontier societies respond to situations of ecological, economic and political stress on a micro level by developing specific resilience strategies.

Small-scale communities in the border regions of Southern Senegal, western Mali and eastern Guinea have developed longstanding strategies allowing them to adapt to recurrent deep changes in political and social structure that are typical of frontier societies. Yet, from a national and international development perspective, these communities are seen as marginalised; their mobility patterns as an obstacle to civic participation in nation states and their multilingualism in small languages as a barrier to participation in education.

Dr Rodet said: “Due to their history, those marginalized communities remain until today highly fragmented societies, which makes them difficult to approach in terms of development strategies which generally adopt solutions for more homogenous areas.

“Strikingly, these societies have developed their own longstanding adaptive strategies to integrate strangers, manage land stewardship and produce knowledge in multilingual literacies and literature. But the awareness of these solutions is confined to the local scale, and many development activities actually hamper, rather than harness, them.

“Our project is the first of its kind to investigate the specific resilience strategies developed by these frontier societies in terms of mobility, multilingualism and social stratification reconfigurations, from an emic perspective. It makes these strategies systematically visible to a larger audience through digital tools (mobile app, short videos and a website).”

The project will provide training workshops and digital tools to local research participants to share their own resilience strategies. The project will also build cross-border networks and cooperation by uploading data on a mobile app and website, thus creating a collaborative interactive space where information can be easily exchanged, compared and capitalized upon for future development strategies by the communities and NGOs.

Dr Rodet is the Principal Investigator on the project with SOAS’s Professor Friederike Lüpke as Co-Investigator, jointly with Dr Elara Bertho (LAM Sciences Po Bordeaux), Professor Bakary Camara (USJB Bamako) and the NGO "Donkosira" (Mali).