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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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Mobilities and Socialities: Covid-19 in the Drylands of Africa and Beyond

Project Summary

This transdisciplinary and participatory project receives funding from the ‘Africa Multiple’ Cluster of Excellence at the University of Bayreuth. It brings together a large team of researchers and collaborative researchers (often non-academic dryland inhabitants) to study the effects of the Covid-19 containment measures in the drylands of 14 countries in Africa, Asia and North America, focusing on two aspects that have been particularly impacted by these measures, mobility and sociality. This project involves two partner institutions of the Cluster of Excellence ‘Africa Multiple’ at the University of Bayreuth: the Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo (Burkina Faso) and Rhodes University (South Africa), as well as academic institutions and non-governmental organizations in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Inner Asia.

Further Information

In the world’s drylands, the COVID-19 pandemic is adding uncertainty to the lives of people already facing challenges from climate change, political instability, food insecurity, poor services and land conflicts. It is also exposing the relevance of local strategies for living with environmental variability, such as strategic mobility. Most research on COVID-19 in the drylands has focused on the health implications and not on the effects of state-enforced containment measures. Most critically, these works are only slightly informed by the perspectives of members of affected communities. We propose to address these gaps by exploring two dimensions of dryland lives and livelihoods that have been most affected by control measures – mobility and sociality. Adopting a transdisciplinary and participatory framework, we will investigate the socially differentiated impacts of the evolving COVID-19 restrictions, and local responses to them. Under current travel restrictions, data will be provided by collaborative researchers living in 18 dryland countries – farmers, pastoralists and students; women and men of different ages and socioeconomic statuses – who are directly affected by the containment measures and report on their experience thereof. We are exploring the medium-term dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic in the drylands. More specifically, we examine how changes in im/mobility and sociality interconnect with food security, land issues, environmental conservation, religious discourses, (electoral) politics and education. Pandemic waves, viral mutations and emerging vaccination-based conflicts  make this examination of COVID-driven impacts and responses in some of the most marginalised regions urgent. Exploring the multifaceted and unfolding COVID-19 experience in dryland areas can illuminate questions about dryland livelihoods, while contributing to theoretical debates about mobility and sociality.   

Project Members

  • Prof. Dr. Andrea Behrends, University of Bayreuth, Germany
  • Dr. Angela Kronenburg García, University of Padua, Italy
  • Dr. Joana Roque de Pinho, ISCTE-IUL Lisbon, Portugal
  • Prof. Dr. Cyrus Samimi, University of Bayreuth, Germany

and the members of the Covid-19 in African, Asian and North American Drylands Working Group



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