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Seminar: Ian Scoones – Can pastoralists help us respond to global uncertainties?

9th January 2018 @ 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Seminar by Ian Scoones, Director, ESRC STEPS Centre and Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies.

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Tuesday 9 January 2018 13:00 to 14:30
IDS Convening Space
All welcome

Part of the Complexity and Development seminar series

Uncertainties are everywhere: climate change, financial crises, migration flows, infrastructure development, disease outbreaks and more. Yet contemporary institutions and policy processes are poor at responding to and embracing uncertainties, where we don’t know about either the likely outcomes or their probabilities. Too often political, procedural and professional pressures force us to ignore uncertainties, constructing problems and solutions in terms of manageable risk.

In this presentation, I will argue that this is highly problematic, and that we can learn much from those who live daily with uncertainty and make use of it as a productive resource.

Pastoralists – people living largely from livestock in dryland, montane and Mediterranean regions – have long experience of responding to intersecting uncertainties. Perceptions, cultures and practices; markets and economic relations; and institutional arrangements and governance systems have co-evolved with environmental, economic and political uncertainties. Can we learn from these experiences for other contexts, such as financial systems, disease outbreak response, migration policy and critical infrastructure management, where the challenges of responding to uncertainty are real, and growing? Without arguing that lessons are directly transferrable, the presentation will ask what core principles might be relevant for refashioning policies, practices and institutions in order to confront heightened uncertainties in today’s world?

The presentation launches a new European Research Council Advanced Grant, involving research on pastoral systems in Chinese Tibet, East Africa and Sardinia, encouraging a conversation with those in other fields grappling with uncertainties. The ERC grant is led by the STEPS Centre at Sussex and involves collaboration with the Global Governance Programme at EUI, Florence, amongst others.

About the speaker

Ian Scoones is a professorial fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex and co-director of the ESRC STEPS Centre. He has worked for 30 years on livelihoods, land and environmental/agrarian change, mostly in Africa. On pastoralism, he co-edited ‘Rangelands at Disequilbrium’ (1993), ‘Living with Uncertainty’ (1995) and ‘Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins’ (2012). He is a recent recipient of an ERC Advanced Grant, Pastoralism, Uncertainty and Resilience: Global Lessons from the Margins (PASTRES).

About the Complexity and Development seminar series

This seminar is the third in a series that aims to share cutting-edge thinking and research being done at IDS and the University of Sussex around practically how we capture and account for complexity across a variety of sustainable development contexts.

For other related events, see the IDS website.


9th January 2018
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
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Convening Space, Institute of Development Studies
Library Road, Falmer
Brighton, BN1 9RE United Kingdom
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Institute of Development Studies
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