Next Gen Fellows and Alumni Present at University of Cambridge and Makerere University Environmental Conference in Gulu

July 25, 2018


Gulu, Uganda—The Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa workshop in Kampala has ended. When it comes to presenting research on peace, security, and development, however, some of our fellows are just getting started.

In mid July, five Next Gen fellows presented at a conference co-hosted by the University of Cambridge and Makerere University entitled, “Environmental Politics: Environmental Justice in Northern Uganda & the East Africa Region.” Beginning on Monday, July 16th and ending on Tuesday, July 17th at the Bomah Hotel in Gulu, the two day event sought to grapple with questions of climate change, natural resources, dispossession, energy, urbanization, and the historicization of ecological damage in Northern Uganda and East Africa more broadly.

In line with these goals, Barbara Nakangu, a 2018-2019 dissertation completion fellow from the Makerere Institute of Social Research, gave a presentation entitled, "Historicisation of Conservation in Uganda: Unveiling the Ecological Structure as Framework of Rule." Jacqueline Adongo, one of this year’s dissertation research fellows, applied her expertise in identity formation to ecology when she presented, "Rethinking Childhood: Climate Change as a Trajectory to Child Identity Formation in Post-War Northern Uganda.” Laury Ocen and Eric Awich Ochen similarly harnessed their research on childhood identity with their respective presentations, "Reconfiguring Youth Livelihoods in the New Urban Spaces of Postwar Northern Uganda" and “Situated Agency or Misplaced Priorities? Young People and Environmental Degradation.” Finally, 2013-2014 Next Gen alumna Eria Serwajja investigated the environmental politics of mineral resources with her presentation, "Condemned to the Periphery: The precarious lives of women in artisanal gold mines of Karamoja.”

Our five fellows, therefore, brought their knowledge of natural resource governance, childhood studies, and regulatory frameworks to academic discussion on the environment, creating and enriching scholarship that proves increasingly pertinent as environmental politics becomes central to international affairs.

Next Gen’s involvement with the Gulu conference didn’t end with our fellows, however. Adam Branch, Director of the University of Cambridge’s Centre of African Studies, who served as a facilitator at our 2018 workshop in Kampala, co-hosted the event. Branch shared his research on the political ecology of natural resource extraction and climate change adaptation in East Africa when he presented, "Charcoal Power: The Political Violence of Non-Fossil Fuels.”

The conference concluded with a public forum on environmental activism that spotlighted the work of two environmental organizations: the Nairobi-based Mathare Social Justice Centre Green Movement and the Uganda-based "Our Trees, We Need Answers" Campaign.

As many of our fellows have made clear, they agree with the contention that academic research need not—nor, indeed, should—stay in the academe.

“You can’t really sidestep the point that, when you make an argument, it is going to have an impact. All writing is political in some way,” 2018-2019 Next Gen fellow Claire-Anne Lester said in response to those who believe scholar activism to compromise academic objectivity. “You don’t have to hold a picket sign to be an activist.”