Rethinking identity in adaptation research: Performativity and livestock keeping practices in the Kenyan drylands
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Wernersson, J. 2018. Rethinking identity in adaptation research: Performativity and livestock keeping practices in the Kenyan drylands. World Development 108:283-295.
Permanent link to cite or share this item: https://hdl.handle.net/10568/91675
Adaptation research often uses identity categories. This article argues that a performativity approach allows us to understand identity in ways that are important for adaptation. Performativity sees identity as constructed through practices in an ongoing process of negotiation and renegotiation. Individuals and groups can thus be understood as having the agency to redefine identity by changing their everyday practices; changed practices, in turn, can influence the construction of identity. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted with pastoral and agro-pastoral livestock keepers in West Pokot County, Kenya, the article focuses on one set of identity-linked and adaptation-relevant practices: those involved in ensuring that livestock receive water regularly. Practices of livestock keeping reveal how identity is both implicated by and constructs the social context – between and within individuals, families, and communities, but also in relation to livestock and wider biophysical phenomena. By focusing on the changing practices of livestock watering within a changing social and biophysical context, it is possible to extract not only normative practices, but also a number of practices that disturb settled patterns, contesting or resisting identity constructs. This agency to change practices and identity has important implications for adaptation, which also requires changes in practice and behaviour. As this diversity and fluidity of identity as constructed and practised in the present emerges, so do the different ideas of what it can and will mean to be a livestock keeper in relation to the contextual challenges of today and the future.
Investors/sponsorsUniversity of Copenhagen; Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency; Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
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