SDEP brings critical social science and humanities analytics and debate to environmental science and policy on the UIUC campus. The theme of this year’s speaker series will be “Climate of Emigration,” exploring the role of climate stress in people’s need or decision to emigrate. The speakers will include Sara Vigil (University of Liege), Papa Faye (Center for Development and Agricultural Research Action in Dakar), and Stephan Hochleithner (UC Berkeley), among others. We will announce new events as they are scheduled and we hope very much to see you there and to hear your thoughts on this important topic! We will also be hosting and co-sponsoring other events related to environmental policy and politics. Below you will find our current lineup. More to come!




Climate of Emigration: Causes of Mobility in the Anthropocene 

 3:00 PM at 2049 Natural History Building


3 Nov. 2017:   Sara Vigil - “Climate Change and Migration in the Midst of Elusion”

26 Feb. 2018 Papa Faye - “Senegalese Migration to Europe: God and Self-deprecation 

in a Multi-causal Perspective”

20 Apr. 2018: Stephan Hochleithner - “A Question of Access: Nature Conservation, 

Displacement, and Social Transformation at the Virunga National Park, Democratic 

Republic of Congo”


Climate Change and Migration in the Midst of Elusion

Sara Vigil

Friday, November 3rd at 3:00 PM

2049 Natural History Building


Despite progress in the understanding of the complex links between climate change and migration, the so-called ‘climate change-migration nexus’ still occludes more than it reveals. On one hand, academic and policy analysis tends to focus on the biophysical impacts of climate change as ‘push’ factors, naturalizing migration drivers, simplifying their impacts, and eluding the ways in which climate change politics and migration discourses are (re)shaping access to fundamental natural assets. On the other hand, in the burgeoning literature on land and green grabs, displacement and migration remain relegated to a secondary level of consideration, often depicting migrants as little more than passive victims of capitalism. This talk will analyze the variegated and complex interactions between climate change politics, resource grabs, and migration, by drawing on case studies conducted in two very different socio-political contexts: Senegal and Cambodia. In so doing, it will show how and why powerful framings on causes, impacts, and solutions translate into interventions that often increase, rather than alleviate, the very pressures that they intend to redress.


Sara Vigil is a Research Fellow and PhD Candidate at the University of Liege in Belgium and at the Political Economy of Resources, Environment and Population research group at the International Institute of Social Studies at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Sara’s research analyzes the interconnections between climate change, land acquisitions, and migration in Senegal and Cambodia. Sara has consulted on environment and migration issues for the World Bank, the Nansen Initiative, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, and follows closely the UNFCCC climate negotiations as a member of the Advisory Group on Climate Change and Human Mobility. Sara lectures on international cooperation, migration governance, and environmental politics at Sciences Po Paris, Paris 13 University, and Institut des Hautes Etudes des Communications Sociales in Brussels. 

Co-sponsored by the Center for African Studies.



Senegalese Migration to Europe:

God and Self-deprecation in a Multi-causal Perspective

Papa Faye

Monday, 26 February 2018 at 3 :00 PM

2049 Natural History Building


With the rise of authoritarian populism, European media and governments present unauthorized migration from African countries as a serious threat. As migration has risen to the top of the international development agenda, the EU and other donor countries are supporting migration prevention programs across Africa. The waves of new migration to Europe, however, are misrepresented and poorly understood in the media and in social science scholarship. In most cases, migration is explained by a singular cause, such as unemployment, low wages, poverty, conflicts, climate change or culture. No single explanation holds, however, when migration is viewed from the perspective of migrants and their parents. In addition to describing multiple causal pressures, young Senegalese men describe their decision to take on the risk of emigration in fatalistic terms, explaining that their destiny is in the hands of God as they migrate. Drawing on initial findings from research on unauthorized migration from Senegal to Europe, this talk suggests that young migrants’ fatalism should be interpreted not as a religious belief but as the result of their self-deprecation, which is a product of historical social and political conditions that predispose them to deeper vulnerabilities at home. This talk emphasizes the need for integrative approaches to migration that account for multiple causes – including ideational and affective internalizations of past insults – in order to understand and combat the self-destruction that desires for Europe represent. 


Papa Faye holds a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from University of Bern (2014) and a Ph.D. in Rural Sociology from Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar (2007). He has conducted research on natural resources governance with the Council for the Development of Social Sciences Research in Africa (2004-2014) and with the Prospective Agricole et Rurale (IPAR) initiative (2009-2015) – a West Africa-wide think tank focused on agricultural development. Papa was a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the UIUC Geography Department in 2014-15. He is also co-founder and Executive Secretary of CADRE (Centre d’Action pour le Développement et la Recherche) based in Dakar. Currently, Papa is a non-resident Fellow of Open Society Foundations and is completing a book project on the rights to local democracy and self-determination in forests and farmland in Senegal.

 Co-sponsored by the Center for African Studies.


A Question of Access: Nature Conservation, Displacement, and Social Transformation at the Virunga National Park, DRC

Stephan Hochleithner

Friday, 20 April 2018 at 3:00 PM

2049 Natural History Building


The Virunga National Park (VNP), located in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is advertised as key to bringing peace to the region, which has been afflicted by armed conflicts for at least the past 30 years. The park’s management and donors argue that the VNP brings about economic development and stability, and helps to counter climate change, tying in with the global narrative of nature conservation. An increasing number of studies, however, also point at the VNP’s downsides, such as dispossessive enclosures, disempowerment of peasants, and contributions to causes of ongoing armed conflicts. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork in the region, this talk examines the role of the VNP in local migration patterns with special regard to the many internally displaced persons. It argues that the VNP contributes to increased social and environmental differentiation and contributes to local conflict dynamics by restricting local communities' access to resources.


Stephan Hochleithner was trained in Social Anthropology at the University of Vienna and holds a PhD in Political Geography from the University of Zürich. Stephan is currently involved in a project on temporary and incomplete enclosures at the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests center on spatial aspects of socio-economic activities and structures, and the crossroads of material and social realms. Questions of access to resources and topics from political ecology inform Stephan’s strongly ethnographic empirical approach. His fieldwork and general research experience ranges from urban settings in Europe to rural settings in Central/East (DR Congo, Uganda, Tanzania) and Southern Africa (RSA, Namibia, Botswana).

Co-sponsored by the Center for African Studies.


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