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Mark D. Hayward, Director 305 E. 23rd Street, Stop G1800 78712-1699 • 512-471-5514

Other Research Projects

Environmental Uncertainties and Livelihood Thresholds in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Principal Investigator: Kelley Crews
Additional Investigator: Brian King, The Pennsylvania State University
Funded by: National Science Foundation

This research will combine insights from both social and natural sciences to understand how variability and uncertainty in time and space impact human-environment interactions. The project will examine social responses to environmental variability, particularly precipitation and flooding. Of interest is how people maintain their livelihoods, and further how these strategies change in anticipation and in response to environmental change. Thus this work will also characterize the patterns of precipitation and flooding as well as their impacts on household farming, household collection of materials such as reeds, grasses, and wood, and individual entry into the tourism sector. The work will be positioned in the international treaty-recognized Wetland of Importance, the Okavango Delta (OD) of Botswana. Nestled within the Kalahari (Kgaligadi) Desert and flooded each year from Angolan highland precipitation, the OD has experienced vastly dramatic changes in precipitation and flooding in the last several decades. This rural area's population is highly dependent on the natural resource base, either directly (e.g., farming, reed collection) or indirectly (e.g., the wildlife-oriented ecotourism industry). It is therefore further hypothesized that these fluctuations have increased people's uncertainty about the availability of water and the timing / magnitude of flooding, impacting their decisions about which and how many livelihood strategies to employ. The overall project research goals are as follows: 1) quantify environmental change in the OD human-environment system, with particular respect to precipitation and flooding; 2) capture the distribution of natural resources over space and time using field-collected and satellite-derived data; 3) map resource activity areas and management / tenure systems to better understand livelihood decision-making; 4) assess how environmental change impacts livelihood strategy selection, and, in turn, how these decisions impact the environment; and 5) evaluate the utility of a human-environment system framework for understanding dynamic systems such as the OD.

The Maryland Prisoner Reentry Relocation Experiment: Pilot Study

Principal Investigator: David Kirk
Funded by: The Smith Richardson Foundation

Residential relocation far away from former neighborhoods creates a physical separation between an individual and his or her criminal peers and the criminal opportunities ever-present in a familiar environment. This move can thus lower the likelihood of recidivism. Research supported by the Smith Richardson Foundation provides initial support for this hypothesis. Kirk (2009; 2012) used the neighborhood destruction in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina as a natural experiment to investigate the effects of residential change on recidivism. He found substantial reductions in rates of reincarceration among ex-offenders who moved away from their former parishes. Offenders who moved were 14 percentage points less likely to be reincarcerated. Research is needed to discover whether these findings from a unique natural experiment can be replicated through intentional policy decisions, and to confirm whether the findings hold in a true experimental design. This proposed project will provide the first such demonstration of whether residential relocation, incentivized through a housing subsidy, leads to subsequent reductions in criminal recidivism.

Violence in Urban Communities

Principal Investigator: Javier Auyero 
Funded by: National Science Foundation

Through a combination of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork and survey research in a poor working class neighborhood, a squatter settlement, and a shantytown in metropolitan Buenos Aires, this project seeks to a) examine in real time and space the ways in which diverse forms of violence are experienced by those routinely exposed to them, b) explain the recent increase of daily violence in poor communities in Argentina by scrutinizing the complex causal pathways that lead to what I call “violences in chain,” and c) dissect the (individual and collective) strategies that poor residents devise to cope with different kinds of violence. As such, the project joins the recent call made by social scientists to examine the ways in which diverse forms of violence form a continuum and seeks to draw attention to the “peace time crimes” or the “little violences” that define the everyday life in the communities where the urban poor dwell.

The Social Production of Risk Perception

Principal Investigator: Javier Auyero 
Funded by: National Science Foundation

This project will use ethnography, archival research, and oral history to a) describe the life-threatening effects of
environmental contamination in three highly polluted marginalized communities in the Americas , b) explain the (sometimes
puzzling and contradictory) meanings their poor residents ascribe to it, and c) examine the links between shared
understandings about the effects of contamination on residents’ health and the cycles of mobilization and de-mobilization
around environmental matters that these communities have witnessed during the past two decades. The main questions this
project will address are the following: How do poor people make sense of (and cope with) toxic danger? When and why do
they understand (and act on) what is objectively a clear and present danger? When and how do shared understandings
about threatening pollution trigger collective action?


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