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The Afterlives of Environmental Mangrove Projects in Coastal Tanzania

Rufiji delta and Mafia Island

In my PhD research, I will interrogate the notion of urgency itself, and how it is implicated in climate change awareness, action and interventionist environmental projects in the Rufiji delta, and Mafia Island, in Tanzania. Focusing on how communities themselves are expressing, imagining, perceiving, and defining urgency regarding climate change, amidst external forces and their own contrary or similar discourses, this research has four main objectives:

1: Understanding the sustainability impacts of environmental projects implemented in the mangroves of Tanzania, specifically in the areas of the Rufiji delta and Mafia Island.

2: Documenting the endurance of social and cultural practices, materials and knowledge that have been introduced or encouraged by international environmentalist agencies, as well as documenting opinions about these projects once the agents have left the field, and/or funding has ceased.

3: Documenting how these expired environmental projects have (or have not) generated new forms of knowledge, new relationships with the environment, and new visions about ecological futures.

4: Analysing the emerging forms of sociality, adaptability and ecological and/or political participation and resilience that are emerging in response to environmentalist interventions in coastal Tanzania.

This research seeks to inquire into how people who are living with and around mangrove eco-systems, or mangals are recognising the effects of climate change, the success of environmental projects in their region(s) and is looking towards larger structural perspectives that acknowledge systemic influences on what are often considered to be “unsustainable” practices. I am interested in utilising arts-based methodologies for this work, particularly “eco-acoustics”. I will document the sounds of mangroves themselves and how these sounds (according to those who live among the mangroves) may or may not be changing, lending to a sonic mapping of the region. Additionally, eco-acoustics looks (or listens) towards the trees and landscape itself to understand how these assemblages expresses themselves through sound. Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) will be a guiding pillar in working to understand not only the ripple-effects of environmental projects in Rufiji and Mafia Island, but the mangroves themselves in a global moment of “Anthropocene” influenced attention.

Doctoral Candidate: Rebecca Campbell

Before coming to KU Leuven, I received a double B.A in cultural anthropology and international development studies from Trent University, and a M.A in interdisciplinary studies, with an emphasis in cultural anthropology, from the University of British Columbia. Born in Canada, I have spent most of my adult life elsewhere, conducting fieldwork, working various jobs related and unrelated to anthropology, and relishing in the beauty of the earth, her creatures, and their stories. My areas of experience are: critical tourism studies, ethnography, ethnopoetry, environmental affect, South Asian studies (India), youth studies, leisure studies, mobility, and post-colonial analyses.

Meet The Team

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Rebecca Campbell

Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, KU Leuven


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Katrien Pype

Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, KU Leuven

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Constanza Parra Novoa

PhD Candidate



The Commission of the Indian Ocean

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