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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:La Secheresse: The Social and Institutional Construction of a Development Problem in the Malian (Soudanese) Sahel, 1900-82
Author:Glenzer, Kent
Periodical:Canadian Journal of African Studies
Geographic term:Mali
History and Exploration
Development and Technology
Drought and Desertification
Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/4107395
Abstract:This article offers a historical analysis of how problematizations of the Soudanese Sahel (Mali) changed during the 20th century. It traces the trajectory of a set of ideas about drought and desertification that coalesced at different times into different, dominant ways of describing the environmental problem in the Middle Niger Basin. The article supports the contention that progress in scientific knowledge cannot fully account for the changes in how organizations, experts, governments and bureaucrats viewed the environment. Furthermore, it asserts not only that environmental discourses are outcomes of complex social, political and economic processes but traces the historical linkages between these factors and reconfigurations of such discourses. The article first analyses French colonial discourses for the period 1900-1920. Despite the occurrence of a drought of equal or greater magnitude than the 1968-1974 event, colonial officials and scientists constructed the Middle Niger as a potential cornucopia. Next, the article presents environmental problematizations from 1921 to 1950, a period during which drought and desertification were constructed as manageable problems. Third, the article turns to environmental discourse in the period 1950-1982, focusing on the last ten years of this period. After 1950, and particularly after the 1968-1974 drought, the problem in the Sahel was construed as reaching crisis proportions far beyond the ability of the Malian State to address. The article closes with a postscript on the current environmental narrative in Mali. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in French.