CfP POLLEN 20 – Migration and conflict in the West African Sahel: political ecology under a changing sky

Session proposal
Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN 20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration 
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Organizers: Tor A. Benjaminsen, Norwegian University of Life Sciences & Jesse Ribot, American University, Washington DC

Abstract: The West African Sahel has recently become a hotspot of international attention due to: increased armed conflicts such as the rise of so-called ‘jihadist’ groups; migration of, in particular, young men to North Africa and onward to Europe; and climate change which is often depicted in the media to cause drier conditions and desertification in spite of a greening trend since the 1980s.

Despite that the desertification narrative has been questioned in environmental research, including political ecology, over the last three decades, popular media and policy reports continue to present climate change and desertification as key drivers of migration and conflict in the Sahel. This panel will go beyond such simplistic explanations by delving into the micro- and macro-politics of local land governance in order to explain current trends in migration and conflict. To fully understand these trends the studies in this panel are based on a progressive contextualization that starts with a focus on moments of conflict or departure. By focusing on specific crises within their local political-economic context, particularly the political ecological context, and locating those crises and their determinants in a larger set of national and international political-economic forces, the causes of disaster can be discerned. We contend that by understanding these local and distal causes that a broader more-effective response might be developed.  

Contributions to our understanding of migration and/or conflict in any of the West African Sahelian countries is welcome.

Please submit abstracts of maximum 250 words to Tor A. Benjaminsen ( and Jesse Ribot ( by the 20th October.

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