Ph.D. student Abdourahmane Idrissa is one of six international fellows to have been selected for the Global Leadership Fellowship program

Above: Ph.D. student Abdourahmane Idrissa is one of six international fellows to have been selected for the Global Leadership Fellowship program.

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Abdourahmane Idrissa

Head of the CLAS

Abdourahmane Idrissa, who will be receiving his Ph.D. from UF’s Political Science Department this Spring, is one of the six international fellows to have been selected for the second cohort of the Global Leadership Fellowship program (GLF). Idrissa recently defended his dissertation on competing Islamic and secular notions of governmentality in the West African country of Niger, under the direction of UF professor Leonardo Villalón.

The Global Leadership program is a joint project of Oxford University’s Department of Politics and International Relations, and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Started in 2008, the program seeks to train cohorts of scholars-practitioners who will help devise innovative strategies to enhance the value of global institutions to the people of developing countries.

Six fellows from non-OECD countries (and hence from Latin America, Africa and Asia) are selected each year to spend two successive years at Oxford and Princeton, during which they will work on specific research programs for their chosen sites. The program’s mission notes that: “We believe that for global institutions to fulfill their potential, they must be better-aligned with the interests of people in developing countries, and that only nationals of the developing countries have the in-depth local knowledge to be able to devise culturally appropriate and politically adept strategies to accomplish this goal. We therefore seek to make a contribution toward increased equity and development in the global political economy by helping to train future leaders.”

Idrissa proposes to study the politics and the economics of merchant accountability to local communities, especially those in rural area, in the contexts of his native country of Niger. This vast, landlocked country is located in the transition strip between the Sahara desert and the savannah grasslands of West Africa. Poverty and natural disasters combine with global warming to create severe problems in land and water use in the country, especially as agriculturalists and pastoralists compete for space. But conflicts and accommodation are also deeply shaped by the cash economy, since Niger is a large exporter of certain crops (millet, onions) and of cattle and cattle produce (hides and skins). Milk and dairy are a key industrial concern within the country itself, and the exploitation of precious aquifers depends increasingly on large investments. In the absence of tangible state policies in those areas, private hands have become all-powerful in the organization of agricultural and pastoral work in the country. This goes a long way toward explaining the chronic problems which led to the food crisis which put Niger in the international limelight in 2005.

Idrissa’s project aims at deciphering the specific conditions for shaping and stimulating merchant accountability to agricultural and pastoral workers, focusing on the town of Maradi and its hinterland, where trade with large markets in neighboring Nigeria have given rise to a dynamic merchant class with complex activities and interests. The countryside of Maradi is the most productive of the country, both in terms of cereals and of cattle, yet the region was the hardest hit by the food crisis in 2005.

As a GLF fellow, Idrissa will reside primarily at Oxford for the first year (2009-2010) and at Princeton for the second (2010-2011), but will travel frequently to his field of research. The program, which also aims to sustain long term work and international networking, will convene conferences of former fellows and world class scholars in intervals of five years. “I feel that I am part of a conspiracy for the good,” Idrissa says. “This is more than I could have ever hoped for.

Contact

Writer

Leonardo Villalon, 392-2183, villalon@ufl.edu

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