Project E2

The Interaction between Economic Change and Sociocultural Change


Project Leaders:

Prof. Dr. Andreas Zimmermann
Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte
D-50923 Köln

 0221 / 470-2877
 0221 / 470-4892


Prof. Dr. Michael Bollig
Institut für Völkerkunde
D-50923 Köln

 0221 / 470-3501
 0221 / 470-5117



Dr. Ursula Eisenhauer


Research Area:





This subproject is meant to play a key role in the synthesis of data provided by archaeological, ethnological, historical and linguistic projects. ACACIA has a number of projects which work on the interrelations between economic and cultural change in a regional setting. Ecological parameters set by deserts, semi-deserts, dryland savannahs and the threat of desertification render the frame for economic and cultural changes. Occasionally direct links between climatic change and economic or cultural processes can be established. More often however, the underlying causes of change both in the realm of economic orientation and socio-cultural organisation are multidimensional and hard to recover. Projects under the ACACIA umbrella are providing in-depth descriptions of change from the perspective of various disciplines on a local and regional scale.

Archaeological projects are describing the onset and demise of pastoralism in the Libyan desert and the many fold attempts at pastoralisation in arid south-western Africa. Linguistic projects are reconstructing the event of small-scale dryland agriculture in Africa's north-east and delineating the interactions between various forager groups and riverine populations in Namibia's Kavango region and cultural change ensuing from these exchanges. Historical projects are describing the effect of colonial policies on dryland management systems and showing the encapsulation of arid lands by states. Social and cultural anthropology documents the transitions of dryland agriculture and pastoralism in south-western Africa and the impact of risk-minimising strategies on land management systems in several case studies. It is to subproject E2 to bind results from these projects together.

A first step will be the critical reconstruction of theories used explicitly and more often implicitly in other projects. Models of interpretation of data are used in archaeology as well as in anthropology and linguistics. These models are to be systematised and critically reflected: which hypotheses are regarded as proven and how is the evidence presented. Key variables impacting upon economic and cultural change as analysed by the different disciplines will be defined, operationalised and registered in a data bank. In close collaboration with the other regionally based projects E2 will provide a platform a critical review and evaluation of theories, hypotheses and variables.

In a second step the project will conduct comparisons on a regional as well as on a transcontinental scale based on the data procured by various ACACIA projects. A comparative approach will shed a light on the interdependence of key variables and help to evaluate theories which are frequently built upon evidence from one region only.

In a final step the project intends to contrast processes of economic and cultural change in arid Africa with similar processes in other world regions. Is there anything specific about developmental processes in arid Africa? Are there regional or even transcontinental patterns of change? What are likely scenarios for future changes in the drylands under consideration?


[Main] [Project E1] [Project E2] [Project E3]