Association pour l’anthropologie du changement social et du développement
Association for the anthropology of social change and development
Online Research Seminar

Online Research Seminar

How does change happen through bricolage? Transforming water governance, agricultural systems and rural livelihoods

by Frances Cleaver

Friday 19 April 2024
12h30 – 13h30 (Brussels Time) – 10h30 – 11h30 (GMT)
Zoom link:

Abstract: In this seminar, Frances Cleaver will address the pressing question of how the management of water for agriculture and rural livelihoods can be transformed in the interests of social and ecological sustainability.  Research shows that water users and farmers creatively adapt local institutions and technologies through processes of bricolage – piecing together arrangements that work in context. Studies inspired by a bricolage focus provide rich illustrations of the social embeddedness of such arrangements, their hybrid nature and the ongoing processes of their reproduction and reinvention. However, this work is limited in its explanatory power because (1) The institutional, technological and ideational elements of bricolage are rarely considered together; (2) Few studies link micro processes of bricolage to long term change across systems/societies, and (3) Policy makers struggle to use studies of localized complexity to inform their work. Drawing on work on water governance and on rural livelihoods undertaken with colleagues on in a variety of  eastern and northern African countries, Frances  Cleaver will address these gaps. She will show how using an integrated bricolage analysis can explain long-term change.

Frances Cleaver is Professor of Political Ecology at Lancaster University. She has a fellowship at the Montpellier Advanced Knowledge Institute on Transitions (MAK’IT) which  runs from 1 September 2023 to 30 June 2024. Her research focuses on natural resource governance, particularly in the context of water, land and forests, and local service delivery in sub-Saharan Africa. Her interdisciplinary approach bridges critical social sciences and she collaborates with experts in engineering, hydrology and ecology. Frances Cleaver’s research methodology combines ethnographic techniques with participatory action research, often in collaboration with local researchers, and emphasizes the importance of long-term studies to generate valuable insights.