Project A7

Household Economy and Social Processes among the BeRí (Bideyat, Zaghawa) and Daza of the Ennedi and its Surroundings


Project Leader:

Prof. Dr. Martin Rössler
Universität zu Köln
Institut für Völkerkunde
D-50923 Köln
 0221 / 470-2278
 0221 / 470-5117


Grit Jungstand M.A.
Babett Jánszky M.A


Research Area:




Research Program

The aim of this project is to investigate into economic and social transformations among the nomadic and semi-nomadic population in the Ennedi and its surroundings. These groups have been heavily affected by climate change as well as by political crises during the last decades. The crucial questions center around the differentiated interdependencies between ecological variables, economic strategies and patterns of sociopolitical adaptation.

Since information about the local groups is rather scarce (new data are almost completely lacking), it is initially necessary to collect basic ethnographic data which should also include the historical background in order to provide an understanding of recent social processes. Main research activities will then cover four interrelated areas which are illustrated below. All topics will be analysed against the common background of economic and sociopolitical transformations resulting from environmental crises and the Tchadian civil war.

The analysis of economic strategies ist expected to reveal in how far local economic systems, which have always been considerably differentiated, were further modified in the course of adaptation to recent environmental crises and sociopolitical changes. The main question is how exactly people use their economic strategies in reaction to such challenges immediately and efficiently.
In detail, research will focus on

1) variability and frequency of nomadic movements
2) regularity or unpredictability of mobility patterns
3) structures of land use and property rights
4) indigenous perception of these issues.

In general, the study will aim at an analysis of individual decision making in combination with group-wide strategies.

Concerning the household economy, the relationship between household morphology and household activities will be of central concern. The household will therefore be treated as a stage of individual decisions including social activities as well as cultural values. It has to be investigated how differentiated productive activities such as herding, horticulture and trade correlate, first, with different types of household morphology and, second, with certain patterns of distribution and consumtion. Another analytical focus will be patterns of work, in particular with regard to the relationship between working capacity and herd size, the timing, scheduling and sequencing of labour, gender specific / age specific aspects of working capacity, and the culture specific perception of work.

According to data so far available, socioeconomic inequalities, especially with respect to unequal distribution of wealth, among the local societies are very heterogeneous in character. Special attention will be given to gender specific and age specific inequalities and their recent modifications which may be expected to result from, for instance, an increasing importance of wage labour or trading activities.

The study of sociopolitical identities is to a large extent governed by the fact that in the region under investigation, intergroup relations have traditionally been very flexible. Fissions and fusions among clans or other social units have been prevailing throughout the history of Ennedi. Within such a mosaic of social groups, identities and differences are continuously being contested and culturally re-constructed. This point is closely related to economic patterns insofar as different users (i.e. groups) of the same resources commonly draw social and cultural boundaries between one another. Therefore changes in subsistence strategies or nomadic movements are expected to result in modified constructions of identity.

A complementary analysis of these research topics will provide an important contribution to the ethnographic documentation of the local groups. In addition, we expect most significant information with regard to theory especially because of the peculiar environmental, economic and sociopolitical conditions we meet in northeastern Tchad. In comparison with former and current anthropological projects in South Africa and Namibia within the SFB, we hope to achieve a deeper understanding of socio-economic change in arid Africa.

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