What we don’t hear in pastoralist development or, Why not these utopian imaginaries?

1. We must fight for the expansion of pastoralism as a universal public infrastructure, just as is now being done for universally available electricity!

2. Government agencies and donors working in pastoralism ask to be overhauled so as to meet pastoralist needs faster and more effectively. (“The C.D.C. director, Rochelle Walensky,. . .called for her agency to be overhauled after an external review found it had failed to respond quickly and clearly to Covid.”)

3. Pastoralists explain their responses to government and donor initiatives this way: “We corrected a few things on the ground. Our job, after all, is to protect you.”

4. Pastoralists, government and donors agree that, when it comes to pastoralist development, answers are known. Making streets safer and more reliable, for example, is known to include: “stricter enforcement of speed limits, seatbelt mandates and drunken-driving laws; better designed roads, especially in poorer neighborhoods; more public transit; and further spread of safety features like automated braking.”

In like matter, making pastoralist development more reliable and safer is known to include:. . . ”

5. Researchers on pastoralism agree that the people and areas they study are usefully marginal and marginalized. In point of fact, pastoralisms provide the only valid commentary on the center where researchers, among so many others, are routinely to be found. As with earlier commentators:

The illuminators [of medieval manuscripts] enriched the margins of the page, conventionally an empty space, with figurative, vegetal or abstract elements. Sometimes the marginal images were merely decorative, at other times they functioned rather like visual footnotes or sidebars, as serious or comic commentaries on the text. . .

Jed Perl (2021). Authority and Freedom. Alfred A. Knopf: New York

6. We refuse to play the game conjured up by herder analyses that start with tables and numbers of livestock. The follow-on question, almost immediate, is who owns the livestock and, sooner than a blink of the eye, we are down to: But what about the old woman with 5 goats or fewer?

As if to ask: What are you going to do about these inequalities? And leaving us hardly any time to reply that, well, the most ethical thing in response is to see if there are more effective ways to think about this problem than one starting with livestock owned and held.

Could it be that productive answers are to be offered up from really-existing contexts of complexity than what we am pressed to offer from our armchairs?

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