‘Seeing’ conflicts at the margins: understanding community experiences through social research and digital narrative in Kenya and Madagascar

Principal Investigator

Dr Jeremy Lind

Research Institution

Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex

Project Summary

Across sub-Saharan Africa, investors are committing unprecedented funds to develop oil, geothermal, hydropower, titanium, iron-ore, agricultural, carbon and other natural resources in the rural margins. Many projects are located in remote rural regions with histories of tension and conflict. While national governments welcome the potential of these investments to generate economic growth and create a more dynamic entrepreneurial environment, the benefits of these trends for local populations, particularly in terms of livelihoods, benefits sharing and governance, are often uncertain.

In fact, large-scale resource development at the margins can intensify long-standing struggles around public authority, community autonomy and environmental justice in these places, in some cases resulting in new and emerging tensions, protests, disputes, and inter and intra-community violence.

States and investors often ‘see’ conflict at the margins narrowly as disruptive insurgency or volatility to be overcome with greater state and/or private security presence or through localised development projects. However, ordinary people at the margins experience, perceive and talk about conflict in ways that differ, sometimes radically, both from the dominant state security and investor narratives, and indeed from universalized conceptions of human and citizen security.

A major challenge for researchers and policymakers, and a major contribution of this research, is how to listen, help amplify and respond to the great variety of ways that people navigate the terrains of development and conflict and conceive their own security and insecurities.


This project bridges the social sciences (social anthropology and human geography), the humanities (history, digital arts, film and visual inquiry) and community-based participatory research (CBPR) to examine how different ‘communities’ of actors ‘see’ and experience resource conflicts in Kenya and Madagascar. Research teams will produce digital multimedia narratives of conflict, including short films, participatory maps, photographs and photo essays and audio recordings. Exchange visits will be organised to share the multimedia outputs across the focal settings and countries as a key method for encouraging horizontal learning and collaborative analysis. This procedure will be used to open up spaces of dialogue, promoting knowledge exchange and enhancing communication within and between communities of actors. Finally, national and global level policy interactions will engage with collective digital narratives and a web site will be set up for five years to ensure global engagement over the longer term.

Contact Information

For further information, please email Jeremy at j.lind@ids.ac.uk 

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