Padmini Iyer

iyer picAdvisor: Dr. Lee Cronk

Risk management; Social networks; Human cooperation; East African pastoralists

Dissertation Title: Risk management through social networks among Karimojong agropastoralists of Uganda

My dissertation research will investigate how Karimojong agropastoralists of Uganda use their social networks to manage the risks posed by their volatile ecological and political environments. Historically, like other East African pastoralists, Karimojong engaged in livestock and food exchange relationships that carried an implicit obligation to assist partners during hardships such as drought, livestock disease and raiding. Exchange networks played a prominent role in recouping short-term losses such as food shortage, and in ensuring long-term sustainability through rebuilding herds. However, as a result of prolonged, armed cattle raiding, military intervention, and other large-scale changes, such as livestock loss and destabilized intra-group relations, the risk-buffering social networks of Karimojong have become weak. To examine how large-scale changes affect social risk management strategies, I will collect qualitative and quantitative data to address three main questions: 1. How do such variables as wealth, geographic location, and kin relation influence an individual’s personal network of exchange partners?; 2. How do the social network properties of a neighborhood (cluster of households) influence its ability to minimize risk?; 3. To what extent do the norms underlying the current system of exchange differ or resemble the norms of the previous generations? Besides advancing our understanding of contemporary risk management among East African agropastoralists, and examining previous systems of exchange, this project will contribute to theories of human cooperation, reciprocity, and risk management from evolutionary and cross-cultural perspectives.

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