, 74:507 | Cite as

Flexibility in return, reconstruction and livelihoods in displaced villages in Casamance, Senegal



The paper argues that livelihoods research in situations of violent conflict and its aftermath can contribute to geographical understandings of flexibility. Such settings paradoxically demand greater flexibility from economic actors while imposing new and sometimes severe constraints on them to exercise it. These constraints often have spatial aspects. The paper explores these issues through research on return of the displaced in Casamance, Senegal. It analyses the dynamics of reoccupation and exploitation by villagers of their former habitable and agricultural spaces amid improving but still problematic security conditions. Flexibility is most visible in the new settlement forms adopted in villages undergoing reconstruction, mainly reflecting security issues. It is also evident in shifting patterns of economic activity and the reconfiguration of local political space. However, such flexibility transcends the situation under study and has long been described in livelihoods research across the developing world, albeit in other terms.


Casamance Senegal West Africa Human displacement Livelihoods Post-conflict reconstruction 



The author warmly thanks all those who took part in the research, including leaders and villagers in the four study sites, local government officials, staff of the local NGOs APRAN and RADDHO and other development bodies, and the many Casamançais who also gave their time, help and insights. The research would not have been possible without the author’s long-standing field assistant, Oumar Badiane. Fieldwork in 2000–2001 was conducted as part of the author’s doctoral research, funded by the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; and in 2004 as part of studies funded by the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research—Oslo and Chatham House. Thanks also go to Debby Potts and Clare Madge for indicating useful literature; to attendees at the AAG 2007 annual meeting in San Francisco for their feedback; to Ben Page and two anonymous referees for very helpful comments on earlier versions; to Angus Cameron for his encouragement; and to Kerry Allen for drawing the map.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Development StudiesUniversity of ChesterChesterUK

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