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Livelihoods and Development

New Perspectives

Edited by Leo de Haan

This books aims to further develop theory and practice on people-centred development, in particular on the livelihood approach. It focuses on four contemporary thematic areas, where progress has been booked but also contestation is still apparent: power relations, power struggles and underlying structures; livelihood trajectories and livelihood pathways: house, home and homeland in the context of violence; and mobility and immobility.
Contemporary livelihood studies aim to contribute to the understanding of poor people’s lives with the ambition to enhance their livelihoods. Nowadays livelihood studies work from an holistic perspective on how the poor organize their livelihoods, in order to understand their social exclusion and to contribute to interventions and policies that intend to countervail that.

Contributors are: Clare Collingwood Esland, Ine Cottyn, Jeanne de Bruijn, Leo de Haan, Charles do Rego, Benjamin Etzold, Urs Geiser, Jan Willem le Grand, Griet Steel, Paul van Lindert, Annelies Zoomers.

Clare Collingwood Esland

The starting point for this paper is understanding livelihoods in politically tense, contested landscapes. It is based upon PhD research conducted in the Middle East in 2010, within the field of humanitarian mine action. It explores the impact mines and cluster munitions, and their clearance, had on 63 households across two communities in southern Lebanon. These communities lay within 20 kilometres of the United Nations delineated Blue Line: the militarised Lebanon/Israel border. The paper has three primary aims: given the research context of military actors, un peace-keeping troops and conflict-affected communities, it seeks to highlight how fundamental principles and thinking associated with livelihoods can alter when situated in insecure, contested and violent contexts of the Global South. Consequently it argues there is value, in such empirical contexts, of bringing the livelihoods approach into conversation with discourses on the political economy of conflict, post-colonialism, and critical geopolitics. There is a need to understand livelihoods as resilient and resistant. The findings that emerged when this approach was adopted within the research are discussed. They highlight the links between contamination, bio-politics and bare life; the links between contamination, geographies of fear and the control of space; coping with, and adapting to, contamination as a means to reclaim both identity, home and homeland and to challenge the reproduction of dominant political relations; and perceiving clearance not only as an amelioration of risk and unblocking of assets, but emancipating with a regaining of freedom(s). In this research, the non-material, emotional impacts of contamination and clearance on livelihood were significant. Moreover, through broadening and reorienting livelihoods analysis, they could be effectively examined and grounded. This unsettles the assumptions upon which the conceptualisations of impact, and hence how it is primarily examined, have traditionally fallen within humanitarian mine action.

Leo de Haan

Livelihoods studies aim to contribute to the understanding of poor people’s lives with the ambition of enhancing their livelihoods. This introductory chapter starts with a brief overview of the origin and gist of livelihoods studies. It shows that the livelihoods approach grew out of the frameworks and toolboxes of the 1990s with little historical and theoretical depth. Nowadays livelihoods studies work from a theoretically informed holistic and critical perspective on how the poor organise their livelihoods. At present, persisting and rising inequalities represent the main global social problem instead of ‘poverty as such’. Therefore the essence of livelihoods studies has moved from poverty to understanding how the poor can be ‘included’. This in turn requires a thorough understanding of the exclusionary processes the poor are subject to. These can best be examined through a layered analysis: a first layer of access to resources and opportunities; a second, underlying layer of power relations and power struggles; and a third, even deeper layer of impeding structures. The metaphor of a livelihoods journey, an historical trajectory through an enormous labyrinth of rooms, corridors and other spaces serves as an illustration of this layered analysis. Finally, the chapter points at four key dimensions in contemporary livelihood studies – power, pathways, violent conflict, and acceleration of mobility – on which this volume offers conceptual innovations.

Benjamin Etzold

People’s movements and their immobilities are both structured and structure-specific livelihood trajectories and the places at the crossroads. This chapter connects livelihood studies to recent geographical research and draws on Bourdieu’s theory of practice as conceptual frame analysing the relations between (im)mobility, translocality and place-making in three steps. First, I argue that migrants and refugees are permanently positioning themselves in translocal social fields and that their trajectories are often marked by conflicts and fragmentations. The ‘turbulent’ journeys of sub-Saharan migrants to Europe show that spatial and social trajectories are neither direct nor unilinear, particularly when people are confronted with restrictive migration regimes and militarised borders. Second, mobility can contribute to the livelihood security of, then, translocal households. Other examples from the European border space and from Bangladesh do, however, indicate that translocal social networks can become a burden or cause new vulnerability. Third, any analysis of translocal livelihood trajectories is incomplete when it fails to consider the structure of the places that serve as ‘crossroads of migration’. Transient places are permanently transformed through different rhythms and forms of mobility, i.e. flows of people, capital, goods and ideas. While such transformations open up further options for translocal livelihoods, they pose challenges to established structures of territorial regulation and evoke new contestations over space.

Griet Steel, Ine Cottyn and Paul van Lindert

This chapter examines how multi-locality and digital rural–city connections impact on livelihood transformation in sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing on empirical cases from Cameroon, Rwanda and Sudan, the chapter addresses the way rural- and urban-oriented households use physical and digital connections as a livelihood asset and as a strategy for achieving socio-economic stability and improvement. It is argued that because of new and intensifying forms of connections, livelihoods are becoming more diverse in terms of activity, spatially and temporality. Socio-economic scope and spatial organisation of livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly characterised by multi-local arrangements across sectors and spaces. Mobility is considered a resource that is differently accessed and experienced. It may also have disruptive effects by putting pressure on family labour in rural livelihoods. In this way, mobility and immobility are regarded as interrelated instead of unconnected opposites. Digital connections and mobile phones facilitate the maintenance of social and economic relationships and networks without people needing to be physically mobile. Yet, not every individual or household has equal access to mobile phones and digital connectivity. This results in information asymmetries and related negative consequences for livelihood dynamics. There is a real threat that the new connections between rural and urban areas create new dependencies and new exclusions.

Leo de Haan

This chapter discusses – in terms of four key dimensions – the prospects for further conceptual innovation in livelihood studies which are offered by the contributions to this volume. First, with respect to power, the guidance offered by Bourdieu’s theory of practice is widely acknowledged. Moreover, the prevailing distinction between apolitical and political positions does not hold any longer. Instead, bringing the distinction between ‘power to’ and ‘power over’ through a renewed attention to agency and structure is shown to be much more productive. The concept of political arena can provide space for such a bridging analysis as it is embedded in both Foucauldian and Bourdieusian notions of power. Second, livelihood trajectories and livelihood pathways proved a solid method to identify regularities and patterns in livelihoods, including exclusionary processes, as a step towards more general conclusions and generalisations beyond the local and the case level. In addition, fruitful entries to connect the local to the global were revealed and the holistic nature of contemporary livelihoods studies was reconfirmed. Third, fundamental threats to human security such as extreme violence and fear and their repercussions to people’s livelihoods were innovatively conceptualised by integrating notions from political economy, postcolonialism and bio-politics. Fourth, unprecedented acceleration of mobility gives rise to translocality implying that livelihoods are organised in social fields which stretch over borders and connect different places and social contexts. Moreover, mobility is inextricably bound up with immobility: mobility of the one engenders immobility of the other. Besides, physical mobility is being replaced with more intangible forms of mobilities. Finally, social exclusion became apparent on all four dimensions and so were directions to countervail it.