Poverty Politics Research Group

MA, MPHIL and PhD projects under Poverty Politics

Ongoing MA, MPHIL and PhD projects under Poverty Politics


Agena, Monica, MPHIL: "Gender, Ethno-Politics and the state: A case study of Uganda’s oil industry"

Abstract: Uganda is situated in Eastern African. Located between latitudes 4 degrees North and 2 degrees South, and longitude 29 and 35 degrees East, the country is bordered by Sudan to the North, Democratic republic of Congo to the West, Kenya to the East and Tanzania and Rwanda to the South. Uganda has one of the fasted growing populations in the world with a rate of 3.576 percent, which is said to undermine development. Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, with coffee fetching its highest export revenue. The sector employs 80 percent of the work force, majority of who are women. But on the contrary, women only own about 7 percent of the land, but access it through heir husbands and male kin. Uganda’s current economic growth rate is 6 percent, and might be boosted by the discovery of oil. Uganda is to start commercial production, this year, beginning with the extraction of small crude amounts of oil for the generation of thermal energy in industries (Mugerwa 2011). The oil industry is also expected to increase individual revenues and fund public investments. Following the restoration of Kingdoms in 1993 by the current government in Uganda (they had earlier been abolished in 1966), there have been claims on sharing the benefits from the oil industry, between the Ugandan state and cultural groupings who live in places were oil has been discovered. One of such claims comes from Bunyoro Kitara kingdom in western Uganda on who’s land vast oil deposits sit. Although the recent discovery of oil might turn Uganda into a middle income country, proper management of the industry is crucial to addressing rising expectations amongst those who claim are ‘the owners of the resource’. My project will highlight key issues surrounding the recent oil explorations in Uganda, focusing on the gendered outcomes emanating from the interests of the peoples in the oil producing communities of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom in Western Uganda. Empirically, I will look into the effects of the so-called ‘production sharing agreements’ between the Government of Uganda and the foreign multinational companies and in order to see whether the indigenes of the oil producing region’s experience have a stake in management of ‘their’ oil.

Bedasso, Elias Alemu, MPHIL: "Ethiopia’s Last frontier: Guns, Drought and Masculinity among the Nyangatom of Lower Omo Valley"

: The influx of guns, drought and pressure from the central government via establishment of parks and evacuation of local people from their grazing lands in the name of development are the major challenges agro-pastoral communities have been facing in the lower Omo valley of Ethiopia. The Nyangatom of South West Ethiopia, as one of the lower Omo valley agro-pastoralists, are not exceptional to this. Do these developments affect coping strategies, warfare patterns and masculinity within the local community? Do they have an impact on the dynamics of the social structure by altering the power balance between elders and the young generation? How do center-periphery relations between the Nyangatom and the Ethiopian government (historical threat and confrontation of the Nyangatom in the name of ‘cultural contacts’) are maintained? This research is designed to look in to these challenges and analyze the dilemmas faced by the local community and the coping strategies adopted by the Nyangatom.

Fredriksen, Synne Eintveit
, MPHIL: "Local conflict management. Adherence and alternatives to state amongst the Diola in Sao Domingos, Guinea-Bissau"

Abstract: In opposition to a war prone state in Guinea Bissau, the general statements about the Guineans describe them as "a peaceful people", with remarkable vitality of local actors-and institutions for conflict resolution, where outside the capital "traditional" authorities dominate. Through my project I wish to debate these simplified characteristics by looking at how local conflict resolutions are shaped in the interplay between ‘traditional’ power systems and ‘modern’ institutions, and that inter-influences between state and local politics can form local conflict management. In relation to my research question; How does Diolas formulate adherence and alternatives to state in Sao Domingos, and what does this say about local conflict management, I seek to look at how experiences of the political in both local, national and regional shapes local political strategies in a specific location, Sao Domingos, and particularily amongst the Diolas . I am here following Steedly’s argument about memories; They 'exist within culturally defined patterns of meaning, that are structured by (local) narrative conventions as well as by the social context of their telling'.

Gatisso, Melesse Madda,
PhD: "Surviving on the Edge: Exacerbation of poverty, environmental stress and uncertainty of life among Mursi South western Ethiopia"

Abstract: My research interest and the research projects I engaged so far are related to different topics and issues. Some of these are associated with indigenous environmental knowledge and resources management practices, poverty, food security, resettlement and environmental impacts, rural development, traditional mechanisms of conflict resolution and complimentarity with the formal legal system. At the theoretical level I am interested in the analysis of how different discourses are constructed at different levels of power relationships and restructured spatially and temporally in a new way. My PhD project tries to explore how the global discourses of poverty, tourism and conservation of national parks and the formation of environmental state affect Mursi the pastoralist people in the Omo valley, Ethiopia. It examines different forms of contestations and negotiations to control spaces involving the national state through its agents, the local people, tourists and tourism operating enterprises and conservationists through practices of protection and preservation of parks as natural environment. It questions how the Mursi perform in this contest for control and they transform through time adopting new strategies and structural formations.

Konecny, Jenny,
MPHIL: "Realizing Traveller Youth Identity in a Changing Landscape: Research Project Proposal"

Abstract: The focus of this research project is to examine how Irish Traveller youth negotiate their identity as part of a minority ethnic group that has long faced discrimination by the settled Irish population. I want to understand how changes in the Irish Traveller community, such as urbanization, permanent settlement, and a growing amount of Irish Traveller support groups, affect Irish Traveller youths’ perceptions of themselves, the Irish Traveller community and the Irish community as a whole. This project uses the concept of identity, not as a static product, but as a “complex and multifaceted processes of negotiation” that at its core is made up of processes of “multiplicity, contradiction, and instability”(Faas 2010). It is this concept of identity that is a key contemporary problem facing the Irish Traveller community. As other European countries are struggling with ideas of ethnicity and the right to belong (such as cases as the expulsion of the Roma in France and Italy), debates are being held in the Republic of Ireland as to whether the Irish Travellers are in fact a distinct ethnic group that deserves protection (McVeigh 2007). This debate about what it means to be an Irish Traveller has real consequences, not only for policies and funding, but also for how individual Irish Travellers see themselves and how they fit into Irish society. While the Government of Ireland is focused on having a clearly defined category for being an Irish Traveller, the Irish Travellers themselves have a much more fluid concept of Irish Traveler identity. According to literature on the subject (Gmelch 1986) (Kearns 1977) (Gmelch 1986) (Gmelch and Gmelch 1976) (Lanters 2008), Irish Traveller identity seems to have more to do with one’s ability to survive anywhere, and a love for travelling rather than an identity focused on a common descent or a shared language (although these do certainly factor in). In this research project, I hope to understand how this fluidity of identity contradicts with the settled Irish’s desire for clearly defined boundaries of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ or ‘settled’ versus ‘itinerant.’ Furthermore as more and more Irish Travellers settle in large urban centres (such as Dublin), enrol their children in school, move from caravans into houses and take on more main stream forms of employment, has this fluid concept of identity shifted and adapted to these new circumstances or are the Irish Travellers undergoing an identity crisis? Often, Travellers who have settled in houses permanently are seen to be assimilated (Power 2003). What does this mean for Irish Travellers? Do they feel “assimilated”? Do they feel pressure to adhere to other Irish Traveller cultural traditions in lieu of a nomadic lifestyle? This project wants to direct these questions at Irish Traveller youth who may be feeling the most pressure to assimilate or uphold Irish Traveller culture.

Mzamu, Jessica,
PhD: "Can the 'poor' Influence Policy?" An Anthropological Analysis on the Conceptualisation of Food Security and Its related policies in Malawi"

Abstract: My current fields of research are embedded within my PhD project entitled "Can the 'poor' Influence Policy?" An Anthropological Analysis on the Conceptualisation of Food Security and Its related policies in Malawi". The research seeks to explore complex and paradoxical discursive orders that surround food issues, "poverty" and policy processes in Malawi. Hence of interest to me are the themes on poverty and food security policy analysis, the impact and response of development aid at different levels, power relations, Poverty Politics and Discourse analysis. My geographical focus is on Africa, specifically Malawi with the Sub-Saharan Countries as its broad comparative orientation.

Solvoll, Lise,
MPHIL: "Education and Techniques of Knowledge Transmission. A Comparative Study of Knowledge Discourses Affecting Samburu and Turkana Youth in Northern Kenya"

Abstract: For this project and fieldwork I will work with issues concerning education, knowledge conceptions and social change among Turkana and Samburu youth in northern Kenya. Through different methods of data accumulation I will seek to explore the ways in which Samburu and Turkana youth understand their knowledge discourse and what it contains. Questions I will work with are; what are the educational possibilities for the youth in this area? How does education effect or change their life worlds? What prospects make the future different from their elder generations? What is knowledge perceived as? Are there other ways of learning in addition to the proposed formal education? The knowledge gained through what is termed “western formal education” is widely understood as fundamental in bringing a sustainable future to most people in the world (Wagner 1992). In working with the young people I will seek to challenge and complicate this statement with asking questions about the way in which education changes the future possibilities and ambitions for youth and adults. What promises and achievements does the education provide the young students with? To what extent does an education give them a possibility to administer their own biography? In what way is the interests of learning expressed and are there other learning processes present which compete with the formal education system?

Sortland, Thor Erik, PhD: ""Pastoralist Masculinity and the Transforming Power of Youth"


Vaage, Silje, MPHIL: "Growing up in uncertainty: A comparative psychosocial study of processes of violence, recovery and identity among Turkana and Samburu youth"

Abstract: The Turkana and Samburu pastoralists of Northern Kenya are two of several ethnic groups who have historically been experiencing violence in occurrence with other ethnic groups as well as being marginalized by the Kenyan state. The organizational structures imposed by the colonial regime and changes after independence in 1963 have resulted in conflicting interests and uncertainties. Several factors are making their reality problematic, including; territorial boundaries, access to land, feelings of identity and belonging, relation to the government, international agencies and tourism, and environmental challenges with drought and poverty. The violent encounters of cattle-raiding between the ethnic groups were traditionally carried out between morans (young warriors of each group) using spears. But as a result of civil wars in the neighboring countries, the influx of arms has contributed to escalating and more unpredictable violence in which also women, elders and children are suffering. As there are several writings about these problematics in Turkana and Samburuland (Broch-Due and Sanders, 1999, Broch-Due, 1999, Coffman et al., 2009, Broch-Due, 2005), however, few have studied the impact of these circumstances on children and youth. This research is aimed at unraveling the children’s point of view. I will try sketch out their general mental and practical processes of being youth, their identities as youth and their place in society as youth, and finally; How do Turkana and Samburu children and youth experience violence? And how do they cope in their everyday life, after experiencing trauma?


Vallikappen, Thresy, MPHIL: "Where Blessing and Curse merge with Life and Death: Contestation over Land between Landlords and Labourers in Lower Kuttanad"

Abstract: This research tries to expose the diverse forms in which the disparate squabble for land takes place between the ‘lords’ and labourers in the ‘man-made’, water-locked land of Lower Kuttanad where the major portion of rice in Kerala is cultivated. With an anthropological perspective my study attempts to find out how when land becomes the dividing factor, water becomes the uniting factor in this region where land and water intermittently blesses and curses the region, where life turns out to be the gift of death. The old practise of ‘sacrificing’ labourers into the mud-bunds surrounding the rice fields by the landlords to prevent breaches, in times of flood threats, to save the fields, gave rise to the belief among the inhabitants that life in this region is the gift of death. Even though human sacrifices are no longer conducted in this region, the inhabitants still use the notions of life and death in understanding and explaining their region. They see their ‘world’ as the outcome of a continuous cycle of blessings and curses that at times seems inseparable. The notions of life, death, curse and blessing that have powerful meanings among the inhabitants will be exhumed through this study. An attempt will be made throughout to understand how death in this region gives way to life as the inhabitants believe and when exactly blessing and curse appear inseparable. The study will be done constantly keeping in mind one of the main questions as to how core culturally shaped values such as blessing, curse, life and death become part of the contestation between the inhabitants. Contest over resources especially over land between landlords and labourers had been taking place in various forms even before the creation of Lower Kuttanad and continues even today in new forms. But no comprehensive anthropological study relating resource contestation with cultural idioms and core sentiments; life and death struggle in a region where blessing and curse seems inseparable as proposed here, exists. This research is therefore expected to generate new knowledge of the region.

Completed MA, MPHIL and PhD projects under poverty politics 



Ystanes, Margit, PhD: "Precarious Trust. Problems of Managing Self and Sociality in Guatemala".


Betti, Marianna, MPHIL: "The children of Eve. Change and socialization among sedentarized Turkana children and youth".


Jæger, Ingrid, MPHIL: "Crumbling houses - The transformation of Ladakhi elderhood". PDF

Junge, Leah W. Junge, MPHIL: "A Religious NGO with Microcredit Programmes in Embu and Mbeere, Kenya".

Krog, Stian, MPHIL: "Cultural Heritage and the Construction of Space and Place in Hampi, India". PDF

Larsen, Heidi
, MA: "Null sult på rottens øy? En antropologisk analyse av sosialstøtte og utvikling i Brasil". PDF


Angelskår, Berit
, MPHIL: "Children in the Interface of the Tsunami and Ethnic Conflict, Interventional Consequences of Outsider Interpretations". PDF  

Johansen, Hanne Elisabeth Wanvik, MA: "Medisinsk Masala. Om forholdet mellom om urbefolkningsgruppe i Sør-Inda, og de ulike biomedisinske tilbudene de har til rådighet."

Jones, Kristina, MA:  "The Children of The Sea-Mother: Charity, Development and the Economy of Poverty in a Fishing Village in Kerala, India". PDF

Strønen, Åsedotter, MPHIL: “For us this is Utopia coming true” Venezuela ’s Bolivarian Revolution and popular movements in a Caracas barrio". PDF