Project B05, Science Futures

Project Summary

The project “Science Futures” proposes to study the role of science in the design of and decisions about the futures of rural Africa, using the examples of development corridors in general and agricultural production technology therein. It recognizes that scientific and non- scientific modes of knowledge creation, transfer and use play a crucial role in imagining particular futures and in taking active steps towards their realization. Within the studied, largely remote rural spaces which the corridors link to broader national developments in the fields of agriculture, energy or tourism, science-enabled discourses of economic “intensification” through high-level use of resources such as land, water, external inputs and capital assets versus “conservation” and more ecological sustainability-oriented management practices shape societal negotiation processes aiming at diverse “rural futures”. Intensification and conservation discourses may both use scientific and non-scientific knowledge, so both kinds are taken into account while focusing on science. The empirical focus lies on territorially defined models of development (i.e. corridors) and the role of (a) spatial-planning-related knowledge systems in the genesis and current position of the corridor approach in Sub- Saharan Africa, as well as (b) agricultural scientific knowledge systems that shape the internal development dynamics and future-oriented contestation processes. Conceptually the project is inspired by Science and Technology Studies and Innovation System research, as well as discussions in the Sociology of Knowledge linked with Political Economy approaches. Methodologically, it will include qualitative, ethnographic research and systematic quantitative (scientometric) analysis of scientific knowledge produced in the two topical areas, as well as a discourse and network analysis on genesis and actual shaping of the corridors through local policy-making. The project will conduct comparative research in and on all three CRC focus regions in Kenya, Tanzania, and Namibia in order to detect generalizable patterns of the role of science for spatial planning and agriculture in these different corridor/regional- development concepts. They bear very different constellations of intensification versus conservation, strength of national science systems, role of agriculture versus other sectors, and involvement of private sector and external/international experts. In perspective, the assessment of the knowledge systems which determine how the pursued development models unfold lays the foundation for a knowledge communication, transfer, and diffusion strategy to be developed as part of the CRC’s third phase.