Placing the environment in migration: Environment, economy, and power in Ghana’s Central Region

This paper examines the role of environmental change as a driver of migration, a central concern of areas of inquiry ranging from the Human Dimensions of Global Change research to population geography and development studies. Although much of the literature on the role of the environment in migration reflects a general awareness that environmental factors are but one of a suite of influences shaping migration decisionmaking, a framework within which to place social, economic, and environmental issues with regard to particular migration decisions is absent from this literature. Drawing upon recent contributions to the literature on migration, and political ecological concerns for access to and control over resources, in this paper I present a framework for placing such issues founded on a Foucauldian conceptualization of power. This framework treats environment, economy, and society as both products of and productive of social differentiation, instrumental modes of power, and resistance. These forms shape actors’ understanding and negotiation of their social, economic, and environmental contexts, and therefore their migration decisionmaking. I illustrate the application of this framework through the example of three villages in Ghana’s Central Region, where rural environmental and economic changes appear to have driven a complex pattern of outmigration over the past thirty-five years. This migration shows the ways in which environmental change becomes inseparable from local perceptions of economy and local politics through local manifestations of power.

<< Back