Doctoral Dissertation Research: Risk Minimization through Social Networks

Project Details


Rutgers University doctoral student K. Padmini Iyer, under the guidance of Dr. Lee Cronk, will investigate how agropastoralists of Uganda use their social networks to manage the risks posed by their volatile ecological and political environments. The pastoralists examined in this study have historically engaged in livestock and food exchange relationships that carried an implicit obligation to assist exchange partners during hardships such as drought, livestock disease, and raiding. Exchange networks played a prominent role in recouping short-term losses such as food shortage, and in ensuring long-term sustainability through rebuilding herds. However, as a result of armed cattle raiding, military intervention, and other large-scale changes, such as livestock loss, economic diversification, and destabilized intragroup relations, the risk-buffering social networks have become weak. This project will thus examine how social and economic changes influence the ability to manage risk at the individual and neighborhood levels. The researcher will collect qualitative and quantitative data through interviews and social network analysis to address three main questions: (1)How do such variables as wealth, geographic location, and kin relation influence an individual's personal network of exchange partners?; (2) How do the social network properties of a neighborhood (cluster of households) influence its ability to minimize risk?; (3) To what extent do the norms underlying the current system of exchange differ or resemble the norms of the previous generations?

By synthesizing anthropological, economic, and historical data, this project will advance our understanding of contemporary risk management among agropastoralists. The project will also investigate how large-scale changes have affected institutionalized norms of exchange, and to what extent individuals' behavior depart from these norms. As pastoral communities begin to restore intergroup relations after decades of armed raiding, herders are faced with such critical issues as widespread livestock loss and poverty. Information generated from this project will aid in guiding policy on livestock management, community development, conflict resolution, and food security.

Effective start/end date8/1/131/31/15


  • National Science Foundation: $24,872.00


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