Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Brent McCusker.


West African pastoral groups (Arab, Tuareg, Toubou, and Fulani) experience contests both within their society, and, with outside agents regarding state integration, land use and development. Pastoral leadership, neighboring sedentary groups, national governments, multinational corporations, aid organizations, and academia all influence the paths pastoralists take in their relationship with the environment, the markets they return to, the animals the shepherd, and the non-pastoral opportunities they pursue, to name a few. The social relations that exist between pastoralists and outsiders can essentially coalesce or break apart pastoral society, depending on the actions taken by the various actors mentioned. The outcomes of pastoral fragmentation have various consequences on the region's ecology, economy and security.;The conflicts that fragment pastoralists and the actions they take to reconfigure their society are the central themes of this dissertation. The interplay between climatic crises, the increasing imposition of external controls, and a constant shrinking of a disputed commons brings pastoralists into conflict with outsiders and, with each other. The first part of this dissertation outlines, from colonial times to present, the relations pastoral groups have experienced with colonial powers, African independence leaders, aid workers, and now Western militaries and terrorists. The second part looks within Arab, Tuareg, Toubou, and Fulani society to understand the fluidity in which pastoralists move back and forth between herding and non-herding activities to maintain social cohesion and identity as pastoralists. The final part is an exploratory remote sensing investigation of the customary pastures of the Tuareg groups in north-eastern Mali. Observations in this vegetation change detection study indicate a spatial differentiation between resources near the Niger River and those in more remote, drier regions of the study area. The changing relations of outside actors, the strategies taken by pastoralists to maintain their identity, and the changing dynamics of natural resources sometimes subtly, other times dramatically, fragments pastoral society. Yet, pastoralists continue to reconfigure, rebound and maintain resilience despite the changes among and, around them.